I figured I’d get back to actually using this funny little blog thing. Well, today I had coffee with my mentor at one of my favourite coffee shops and afterwards proceeded to do my morning reading in the Psalms. I actually was on Psalm 16 today, but I couldn’t get 15 out of my head from yesterday, so I decided to reflect on it and write about it a bit. A few hours and a slightly cramped writing hand later, here’s the result. I might expand upon these thoughts later.
15 Reflections on Psalm 15
1) v. 1: “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?”
Under the former covenant, the presence of the Lord was only found in the Tabernacle. Moral cleanness was a requirement to enter. Experiencing the presence of God was dependent upon actions and sacrifice. Under the Covenant of Grace, we are given the abiding presence of the Lord as a gift, because of Christ’s sacrifice; not based on our own merit, but on His character. What once were requirements have now become natural byproducts.
2) v. 2a: “He who walks uprightly. . .”
This calls to mind for me a picture of a man who is sure-footed. He is not stumbling along like a drunkard, but confidently moves himself forward on solid ground. He is steadily going in the right direction, with his head up and his eyes fixed on his destination. He is not sprinting, so as to wear himself out; nor is he standing still, so as to stop making progress; but he consistently moves onwards. The decisions of his life display a pattern of integrity because he is walking alongside the Lord and following His guidance.
3) v. 2b: “And works righteousness. . .”
In addition to walking alongside the Lord in relationship, there must also be the strenuous, though still restful, work for the cause of righteousness. Work takes intentional, focused, and sustained effort. Righteousness is to be our daily vocation. We are to spend ourselves– our time, our energy, our bodies, our resources– to bring about righteousness, both in ourselves and in our world.
4) v. 2c: “And speaks the truth in his heart. . .”
One of the works of righteousness must be speaking the truth. In order to speak the truth from the heart, the truth must first be in the heart, and therefore must be spoken to the heart. We must first have the Word of truth inside of us before we can ever speak it to another person. The truth cannot be fully lived if it is not shared; and the truth cannot be truly shared if it is not lived.
5) v. 3a: “He who does not backbite with his tongue. . .”
If the truth is not spoken, something else will be spoken in its place. Backbiting results when the tongue is not aptly employed by the encouragement and edification which comes from sharing the truth. If a man does not build up, he will tear down. If the tongue is not pressed into the service of the King, it will lash out in rebellion.
6). v. 3b: “Nor does evil to his neighbour. . .”
Likewise, if a man’s hands are not employed by working righteousness, they will soon fill the time by doing evil. If we are not actively doing good, we will begin to harm other people. Our actions are never limited to only affecting ourselves. Righteousness will inevitably and irrevocably benefit our neighbour; and sin will inevitably and irrevocably cause him harm. Evil is not isolated; it is always enacted against someone. Even the evil done in secret damages ourselves, and changes our character in ways that will one day wound other people. Either we build, or we destroy.
7). v. 3c: “Nor does he take up a reproach to his friend. . .”
Say someone does harm to us, we then may respond with active good, or we may respond with evil. Either we will rebuild, or we will resent; we cannot do both. We can choose to destroy and be destroyed ourselves; or we can forgive and break our own chains. When we harm another in return for the harm they have done to us, we not only deal our a fresh wound, but we reopen the one we have received. We are forever tied to those around us; what harms them, harms us, and what heals them, heals us. The only way to repair is to release; and that itself is what rebuilds, and even redeems.
8). v. 4a: “In whose eyes a vile person is despised. . .”
And yet, as vital as forgiveness is, sometimes in order for a man to take part in the building of the Heavenly Kingdom, he must take part in tearing down the works of darkness. Demolition is an integral part of the construction process. A man who loves what is good cannot tolerate what is evil. In order for a man to fight for goodness, he must fight against wickedness. In order for a man to love justice, he must hate injustice. In order for a man to protect the innocent, he must oppose the oppressor. The Kingdom of Light cannot be built while we let the kingdom of darkness stand.
9). v. 4b: “But he honours those who fear the LORD. . .”
Even more vital than opposing those who work evil is supporting those work good. Those who fear the LORD are those with whom we share a common allegiance. We honour them by gratefully acknowledging their service, by working alongside them, by defending them from harm, by raising them up when they fall, and by exulting with them in their victories. We all serve on Lord– in Him, their honour is our honour, their harm is our harm, their good, is our good– in Him, we are one.
10). v. 4c: “He who swears to his own hurt and does not change. . .”
The man who abides in God’s presence is a man so dedicated to walking rightly before his Lord that he is willing to incur personal disaster to protect his integrity. Sincerity and duplicity cannot abide together. The man of God does not change, for he is of God, and God does not change. If the Word of God lives in a man, he will be a man of his word. And if he speaks the truth, he will swear by it, for in him there is no deceit. He will suffer harm for it and sacrifice for it because he is convinced of its truthfulness. He will suffer danger for the sake of integrity because He is convinced of the character of the One who asks him to do so.
11). v. 5a: “He who does not put out his money at usury. . .”
Money has no hold over the one who abides with God, because he is an heir of the Kind, and knows that the King who owns all things will not let his prince lack that which is good for him. He is willing to give without worry because has been given all that he has. What use has he for ill-gotten gain when he has the One from whom all good things flow? He has no need to worry about falling behind or fret about getting ahead in life, because he knows that it is his Father’s hand which has placed him where he is and it is the same hand which provides all that he needs. He is with the Father always, and all that He has is his. As a good son becomes like his father, so he gives freely, just as his Father freely gave to him.
12). v. 5b: “Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. . .”
The child of the King has no need for gain from any hand that is not His Father’s. All ill-gotten wealth is not from His Father’s hand. The heart of the Father is to defend the innocent, and therefore will never give a gift which would bring them harm. And the heart of the son is to please his Father, and therefore would never accept a gift which would harm those his Father loves. For such a gain would be not gain at all. Monetary wealth which brings spiritual poverty is a tragic loss. Right standing before the Father is far too precious to risk for any so-called ‘gain’.
13) v. 5c: “He who does these things shall never be moved.”
All of these things are the outflow of abiding with the LORD. The one who abides with the LORD has his feet shod with the readiness of obedience to the Gospel and therefore will not slip. He will not be moved because he stands upon the solid Rock of Ages. The same Lord who saves him is the Lord who sustains him. The One who pulls him out of the pit is the One who keeps him on the Rock. From the same Christ come salvation and sanctification. He who purchased us with His blood will not surrender what rightfully belongs to Him.
14) v. 1: “Who may dwell in Your holy hill?”
The hill of the LORD is holy. It is set apart, high above all else. To dwell there with Him is to dwell above all of the ways of the world. To live with God is to be holy, just as He is holy. And when we dwell with Him, we become holy, for He dwells in us and gives us His holiness.
15) v. 1: “Who. . . ?”
Who is it who may live with God and live like God? Not the one who tries to do so by his own merit, but only the one who receives God to live inside of him by faith in Jesus Christ. As the prodigal received an undeserved welcome, we too must receive the welcome from the Father. Who is it that may dwell with God? Only he who received God to dwell with him. We could never come to God, but He has come to us.
Well, that’s all for now. Raw and real. Writing about the Word is one of my favourite ways of experiencing God. How do you all connect with the Lord? What are some of your own reflections from the Psalms?