Dwelling with God
(H) A Psalm of David. (1) Yahweh, who may sojourn in your tent? Who may settle down on your holy hill? (2) (It is) the one who walks in integrity and does what is right, the one who speaks truth from his heart, (3) the one who does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his friends, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbors, (4) in whose eyes, a worthless person is rejected, but honors the one who fears Yahweh, who swears to his own injury and does not change, (5) who does not lend his money for usury nor accepts a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be shaken.
David composed this psalm in the form of two questions followed by an extended answer. The opening questions essentially ask, “Who is worthy to dwell in the presence of a holy God” (vs. 1)? An eleven part answer follows providing us with a comprehensive overview of Old Testament ethics (vss. 2-5).
Each line of this segment is worthy of further meditation and exploration. David concludes his psalm with a summary statement: those who conduct their lives according to these principles will never be shaken. They are solid citizens in the best sense of the word.
I. Question: who is worthy to dwell with God? (1)
II. Answers: (2-5a)
- He lives justly. (2)
- She speaks graciously. (3)
- He thinks of others honorably. (4)
- She treats others unselfishly. (5a)
III. Summary: such a person will never be shaken. (5b)
Only those who live justly, speak graciously, think honorably, and act unselfishly are worthy to dwell in God’s presence.
The five books of the Law, the Torah which God gave to Moses to govern his covenant people, can be summed up in the two great commandments Jesus cited in Matthew’s Gospel: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:36-40). This psalm is David’s meditation on how believers should apply the command to love our neighbors in terms of their daily conduct. The Ten Commandments tend to define godliness in negative terms, that is, what we should not do: worship idols, murder, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet. David in Psalm 15 speaks of godliness in more positive terms, namely, how we should conduct ourselves so that we honor God with our everyday lives.
The fourth verse contains an intriguing statement: “Who swears to his own injury and does not change.” In other words, if a godly person enters into an agreement or makes a promise or swears an oath or gives his word, and this later turns to his disadvantage, he will still choose to honor that commitment. He will not renege, back out, change his mind, or make excuses. He will steadfastly keep his part of the bargain no matter what the consequences may be.
This principle comes into play all too frequently in our lives. I vividly remember an occasion when my wife and I were offered tickets to a concert which we very much wanted to attend. We were about to accept when our son who was listening to the conversation quietly reminded me that I had earlier made a commitment to take him to a baseball game the same evening as the concert. It took me only a moment of reflection and an echo of Psalm 15:4 in my heart to make the right decision. We turned down the tickets, and I took my son to the ballgame as I had promised.
My own father drilled the following words into my head as I was growing up: “Son, your most valuable possession is your reputation as a person who keeps his word. Whenever you make a promise, even if it turns out to your disadvantage, do not break it.” How we need that kind of integrity in today’s world!