We blogged about Psalm15 a year or so ago. But this Psalm deserves more thoughts. Psalm 15 is short and simple and yet profound. In verse 1 David asks a question to God. And in verses 2-5 God gives David the answers.
David’s question is this: “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? And who may dwell on your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1) In other words, David was asking what a person needed to do to be able to come close to God? David lived a thousand years before Christ at a time when the priests had placed the Arc of the Covenant in the tabernacle on the “holy hill”. The presence of God rested over the Arc of the Covenant so this was a very holy place. So when David asks God who can go in the tabernacle and walk on the holy hill, he was really asking who could stand before God.
Only the high priest could come before God’s presence each year and he could only come if he was bringing a sacrifice. When David asked God what a person needed to do to come before His holy Presence, he already knew that no sinful person could come before a holy God without sacrificing a domestic animal and sprinkling its blood.
All of the Jewish people knew that their sin separated them from God and that the priest had to give a “sin offering” or “trespass offering” whenever they came to worship. A domestic animal had to be sacrificed and the animal had to be healthy and “unblemished”. The unblemished animals that were sacrificed were a picture or a fore shadow of what Jesus Christ who is unblemished by sin, would do when He would come later and be our sacrifice for sin.
David lived during the Age of Law. But Christ would usher in the Age of Grace. Scripture says that animals cannot take away human sin. (Hebrews 10:4) But what these animals could not do, Christ would do. (Ephesians 5:2, 1 Peter 1:2, 1 Cor. 5:17) Scripture says: “For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast…” (1 Corinthians 5:7) And: “We have been made holy, through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for al.” (Hebrews 10:10)
Verse 2 of this little Psalm is part of God’s answer to David’s question. The question is: Who will be close to God? What must they do? Let’s read Gods answer. “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” (Psalm 15:2) None of us walk uprightly or work righteousness all of the time. I am afraid that none of us can ever be good enough in our own strength to meet God’s holy standards. Scripture says: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) “There is none who is righteous, no not one..” (Romans 3:10 and Psalm 11) We all need “the Lamb of God (Christ) who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
God continues to answer David in verse 3. Let’s listen: “He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor…” (Psalm 15:3) 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 our community or not. The Bible says that we cannot 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)
You may ask, ‘But what if my brother has done something that is very wrong?’ Bible scripture in Matthew 18:15 gives guidance as to how to settle disagreements and judge an offender and restore fellowship. Is God calling us to be faithful friends and steadfast family members even when big problems arise? Our faithful love for one another and our unity a Christians and as family is all important to the Lord. Is He calling us to value and protect the ties that bind us?
Also God says that a person who draws near to Him is a person “who does not take up a reproach against a friend.” verse.3 We can be faithful and considerate of our friends even when we don’t agree with them. Instead of slandering a friend or brother (the reproach) we can pray for him/her and encourage him/her. Build her up instead of tearing her down. Scripture says: “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born to help out during trouble.” (Proverbs 17:17)
God’s answer continues in verse 4. Here God says that a person who draws near to Him is a person “in whose eyes a vile person is condemned; but he honors them that fear the Lord.” (Ps.15:4a) This verse seems to say that God doesn’t want us to say that a person who is sinning and disobeying God is “good.” We are to honor those who fear the Lord. But we are not to honor the persons who rebel against Gods will and do their own thing.
Folks who want to draw near to God may not always be popular. They may have to go against the culture when they disapprove of a sin that their society has called “right” but the Bible has called “wrong.” John the Baptist lost his head because he spoke out against adultery. Hopefully we won’t have to lose our heads, but we should not honor a rebellious person and not go along with the crowd when it comes to calling “sin” a “good” thing.
My husband and I went to an “Evangelism” retreat last weekend. The leaders at the retreat spoke of Christ’s great commission calling us all to go into the world and spread the good news of God’s love and make disciples. There was an emphasis on bringing people to church and letting them know that God loves them. And all of that is good. But I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning repentance during the whole conference! Don’t we need the whole gospel and not just part of it?
It’s easy to tell people about God’s great love for us. And that Jesus died for us. But the gospel message also includes our part – repentance – being sorry for our sins. We are called to confess our sins and turn from them. I know of several successful pastors today who preach in mega churches about God’s love but these pastors never call their people to turn from sin!
A friend of ours says that he has been in the same church for fifteen years and only once the word “sin” was briefly mentioned. He doesn’t even believe that a Christian needs to be sorry for his sins because his church has not taught him that part of God’s Word. Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) God is a God of love but He is also a God of justice.
God continues to tell David how He wants his children to live their lives. He wants us all to keep our promises even when it hurts. God wants us not to make an unfair financial profit off of the backs of the poor, or take advantage of them or use them.
This little Psalm tells us that God expects big things from us! He wants us to live out our lives caring and loving our neighbors and families. He gives us his Holy Spirit to help us do these things. And the Psalm ends with these word: And “those who do these things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15:5)