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“Living With God”

If God lived in a house, who would be allowed inside? This is the question posed at the beginning of Psalm 15. One might expect the answer to be a list of ritual requirements like washing one’s garments (Ex. 19:10-15). Surprisingly, the LORD’s reply searches the conscience and the heart. There are certain inner qualities that one must possess to access the divine presence. The psalmist’s words are not far off from Jesus’: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8). Let’s take a look at Psalm 15.

GOD AS MAN’S HOST (v.1)

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent?

Who may dwell on Your holy hill?

The word “tent” may conjure up two pictures in your mind. You may recall the tent of meeting where God was formally worshiped by Israel with sacrifices offered by priests. This was the very place where God met his people, the nexus of heaven and earth (Ex. 29:42). Later, a temple was constructed by Solomon on the “holy hill” of Zion (1 Kgs. 8:1ff). 

The other image you may picture is one of simple hospitality expressed in the words “abide” and “dwell.” Combining these two ideas, this “tent” is a meeting place where God and his people can live together. The worshiper is God’s eager guest, his sojourning (the same word as “abide” v.1) to God’s house, a homecoming of sorts (23:6; 27:4-5). But the question remains, “who” is allowed this great privilege of meeting with God in his home?

MAN AS GOD’S GUEST (vv.2-5)

His Character: True (v.2)

He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness,

And speaks truth in his heart.

The man whose life is characterized by “integrity,” meaning wholeness or completeness, is welcomed into God’s house. His outward behavior and profession is consistent with his inner comportment. He is true, that is, he is not a phony. He loves what is right and does what is right consistently. He speaks from his heart and is what he says, because he knows “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt. 12:34).

His Speech: Restrained (v.3)

He does not slander with his tongue,

Nor does evil to his neighbor,

Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;

The man who values his “neighbor” enough to do him no harm is welcomed into God’s house. His speech is not slanderous (Lev. 19:16), that is, he refuses to spy things out and spread things around. He doesn’t pick up a “reproach” against his neighbor only to drag him through the mud. The Psalmist’s words are a commentary on the proverb, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” (Prov. 10:12)

His Allegiance: Total (v.4ab)

In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,

But who honors those who fear the Lord;

Verse 4a looks at first like a Pharisaic attitude of self-righteousness but by v.4b is seen in truth to be loyalty. The idea isn’t that he measures himself by others to find his justification (2 Cor. 10:12) but rather that he casts his vote for God and those who “fear” Him. He reveres the LORD and admires those who do the same. Abraham’s treatment of the king of Salem compared to the king of Sodom reflects this (Gen. 14:17-24).

His Dealings: Honorable (vv.4c-5ab)

He swears to his own hurt and does not change;

He does not put out his money at interest,

Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

This man makes a vow and, even though keeping it may result in “his own hurt,” he “does not change” his mind. The oath made here is not to someone else’s hurt (see Jephthah [Jdg. 11:35] or Herod [Mk. 6:26]) but to “his own.” If he makes a promise to his neighbor but later realizes his error, he could beg for release (Prov. 6:1-5). Instead, because he is a man of his word, he keeps his vow so no one else has to pay the cost.

An Israelite was allowed to lend out “money at interest” to foreigners (Deut. 23:20) but was not permitted to profit from a fellow Israelite, especially the poor (Lev. 25:35-38). Extortion was forbidden and generosity was encouraged (Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33-34). Remarkably, no distinction is made in this psalm between a brother or a stranger in need. He treats everyone the same. You might say the man who is welcome in God’s house truly loves his neighbor as himself (Lk. 10:25-29ff).

His Place: Certain (v.5c)

He who does these things will never be shaken.

This psalm is not just about being welcome and gaining admission into God’s house, but dwelling there (v.1). The instability of being moved (“shaken”) is only remedied by trusting in God (Psa. 16:8; 46:5). When we have steadfast faith in God’s word, God creates these very qualities (vv.2-5b) within us (we will do “these things”). The result of such faith? We will not only be welcome into God’s house but we “will never be [moved]”.

(adapted from Kidner Classic Commentaries: Psalms 1-72)

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