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Saturday, September 15, 2012

We Shall Never be Moved Psalm 15

Psalm 15
(We shall never be moved)
This short Psalm has only five verses.  The first verse begins with David asking God a question.  David’s question is:  What does a person need to do to enter into God’s tabernacle and to stand before God’s presence?  And who can live (abide) on God’s holy hill? (Verse 1)
 In other words, what does a person need to do to come close to God? The “tabernacle” and the “holy hill” that David is asking about refer to the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant.  During that time period the visible presence of God rested on the Ark of the Covenant.  So to enter the tabernacle and walk onto the “holy hill” would be the same as to stand in God’s presence.
And God answers David’s question in the last four verses of Psalm 15.  God tells David that in order to draw near to Him a person should love others and conduct their life in caring relationships.  The person who wants to come close to God should 1) be kind to his neighbor 2) not gossip or destroy another’s reputation – protect relationships: 3) never hurt a neighbor or take advantage of them financially 4) and never “reproach” a neighbor.   The word “reproach” was the Hebrew word “cherpah” and it means “to blame, discredit, disgrace, or shame.”  And God ends by telling David that the person who does these things shall never be moved.    
Let’s read Psalm 15.
1) (David’s question) “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  And who may dwell in Your holy hill? 
2) (God’s answer) He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.
3) He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor.  Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.
4) A person in whose eyes a vile person is despised.  But he honors those who fear the Lord. 
He who keeps his oath, even when it hurts:
5) He who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.”
God’s message to David is clear.  The way we treat others means everything to God.  It matters to God whether we are loyal to our families and communities or not. The Bible says we can’t love God and hate our brother.  “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar…Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)
But you may be questioning: “But what if my brother has done something that is very wrong?”  Scripture tells us that if our brother offends us (sins against us or another person) we are not to cover it up.  But we are to prayerfully go to the offending brother and confront him in love. If he refuses to hear us Scripture tells us to  bring several others along to confront and also listen to the offending brother’s side, so that the matter is established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.  And finally, if the brother still persists in his sin we are to bring the problem to the whole church. If the offending brother is sorry and repents we are to restore him to our fellowship and forgive him.  But if he continues in his sin we are to refuse him fellowship. (Matthew 18:15) (Scripture gives us guidance as to how to settle a disagreement and judge an offender and restore fellowship). Scripture also instructs Christians not to take a fellow Christian to a court of law.   
When Psalm 15:3b continues speaking about the person who draws near to God it describes him this way: “Nor does he take up a reproach against a friend.” Perhaps this means that we are to be faithful and considerate to our friends even when we don’t agree with them. Instead of slandering the friend or brother (the reproach) we can pray for him and encourage him in right living.  Build him up instead of tearing him down!  Scripture says that “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born to help out during trouble.” (Proverbs 17:17)  Is God calling us to be faithful friends and steadfast family members even when big problems arise?  It seems to me that God is calling us to value and protect the ties that bind us. God doesn’t want broken families and hurting people.
The person who draws near to God is described as one who:  “walks uprightly” (verse.2) and “keeps his oath, even when it hurts” (verse 4b.)  So what does this mean?  I will give my thoughts.
 Since our country has been in a recession, many employers have broken their written agreements with their long time employees. Business owners have excused themselves for breaking their contracts with their workers by saying that they must cut expenses in order to remain competitive.  We hear of loyal employees being let go from work just before their retirements,- let go after having worked their whole lives for a business: of course to save the employer from paying benefits!  
 The boss must make those “tough” decisions to stay “lean and mean” we are told. Money is everything!  A corporation conveniently goes into a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to shed its’ obligations to its’ former employees and then call those obligations “entitlements”.  And thousands of desperate older persons find themselves too old or sick to work any longer, unwanted with no retirement, no dignity and no way to pay the bills -  after saving a lifetime for their retirements.  And some of the business leaders who steal their workers’ retirements, brag openly about their Christian values! 
God is not mocked!  Those who would draw near to God should “walk uprightly” and “keep their oath, even when it hurts”- even if the business has to pay it’s executives less in order to keep its promises to its workers.  Isn’t God saying here in Psalm 15 that people are more important than money?    “---You cannot serve both God and money.”  (Matthew 6:24)
As we read on in Psalm 15, the person who draws near to God is the person who: “does not put his money out at usury, or does he take a bribe against the innocent.”  (Psalm 15:5)  What does this mean?  Again, I will give my thoughts.
When the person who draws near to God “does not put his money out at usury,” I interpret this to mean that a person who loves God does not exploit other people, or take advantage of them for a financial gain.  Examples of this may be “Pay-Day Loans” or “Title Loans” where the interest rate is over 100%.  However Scripture calls it a sin to charge “any” interest on a loan.  And the Catholic Church considered the charging of interest to be a “sin” up through the middle ages.  
And then a person who “does not take a bribe against the innocent” could be a person who refuses to take money or favors from someone who wants to do something that may harm innocent people.  If a person stands firm and refuses to take money or favors in exchange for allowing possible harm to come to their fellow citizens who may be trusting them, that would be the person who is described in Psalm 15.
Years ago many children and some adults in a small town in California began getting sick with cancers.  Over the years more and more children sickened and died from these cancers with no one in the town asking why this was happening.  After many years passed it finally became known that some of the public officials of the town had been taking campaign money and favors from a large agri-business nearby. The mega agricultural corporations had paid the officials of the town to look the other way as they dumped arsenic and other poisons into the ground, polluting the wells and water table of the area, thus sickening so many of the town’s people.  Could this be an example of what “he does not take a bribe against the innocent” means? 
This little Psalm tells us that God expects something from us.  He expects us to do the right thing even if it hurts. (Psalm 15:4b)  Those who want to abide in His tabernacle – those who would draw near to God – are those who “do not take up a reproach against a friend.”(Psalm 15:3b)  God wants us to live out our lives caring and loving our neighbors and our families.  God’s expects us to “do these things” but He gives us His Holy Spirit to give us the power to do these things.  And if we “do these things, we shall never be moved.”  (Psalm 15:5)   


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