Good Friends or Bad?
(9) Do not gather up my soul with sinners nor my life with bloodthirsty men, (10) in whose hands are evil schemes and whose right hands are full of bribes. (11) As for me, I will walk in my integrity. Redeem me and be gracious to me. (12) My foot stands on level ground. In the assembly (of your worshipers) I will bless Yahweh.
The concluding four verses of the psalm recapitulate the three major themes introduced in the previous eight verses. First, David strongly expresses his desire not to be identified or associated with the wicked (cf. vss. 9 & 10 with vss. 4 & 5). Next, he maintains his personal righteousness (cf. vs. 11 and vss. 1 & 2). In fact, David repeats two words he previously used: “walk” and “integrity.” Finally he determines to lead others in the worship of Yahweh (cf. vs. 12 and vss. 6 & 7).
I. Desire: not to be identified with the wicked (9 & 10)
II. Declaration: commitment to personal integrity (11)
III. Determination: to lead others to worship Yahweh (12)
Those who love Yahweh avoid the schemes of the wicked and seek to serve and honor him with those who are likeminded.
To Ralph Waldo Emerson is attributed the following quote: “A man is known by the company he keeps.” An anonymous commentator altered this slightly to read, “A man is known by the company he shuns.” Those in right relationship with Yahweh will normally want to spend their time with those who share their desire to honor God. At the same time they may develop an aversion to those who either do not know him or have rejected him. While there is nothing wrong with seeking to build relationships with fellow believers, if we, who know the Lord, cut off all contact with the lost, how will they ever be drawn into a meaningful relationship with him?
We need discerning hearts to distinguish among the kinds of friendships we maintain with others. Here are three suggestions to help us honor the Lord with our relationships:
- Paul wrote, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). The yoke implies a long-term partnership such as marriage or a close business relationship. Believers are clearly to avoid such binding commitments with those who do not know the Lord.
- We should seek to build strong bonds of friendship with those who love and worship the Lord. Two Proverbs speak about the value of such relationships: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another“(Prov. 27:17).
- We should seek to cultivate meaningful relationships with those who do not know the Lord and would benefit from hearing what we say and observing how we behave. As someone has said, “Your life may be the only Gospel such a person will ever encounter.” Consider the questions Paul asked regarding how we communicate the Gospel: “How, then, can they call on the one in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’” (Rom. 10:14 & 15)!