Who can be God’s friend? Who can come into his presence and enjoy table fellowship with him? Psalm 15 has been referred to as a “liturgy of entrance.” As pilgrims came to worship in Jerusalem, before they entered the place of worship, they asked a question: “Who can come in?” The answer is, “Only those who mirror the character of the one they’ve come to worship.”
As we will see, verse one asks who can “sojourn” or “camp” with God, but by the end of the Psalm, we’re told that those who mirror their God will not be temporary aliens in his house, but children who are welcomed to an eternal and unshakeable home.
Our text for today is Psalm 15. These are God’s Words.
15 A Psalm of David.
1 O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Psalm 15 breaks down into three sections. David asks a question in verse 1. Verses 2-5 are the answer to the question, and the end of verse 5 concludes the Psalm with a promise.
The question in verse 1 is: “Who can be God’s friend?” Who can enter his tent, that is, the tabernacle where God was worshipped in Israel. The “hill” in verse one is a reference to Zion, or Jerusalem, the geographic center of God’s reign under the Old Covenant. The question, “Who,” isn’t a question of identity, but of character. What kind of person? (v. 1)
Notice that, surprisingly, the 10 qualifications listed are not ceremonial in nature as we might expect. Nothing is mentioned about required hand washing or cleanness to enter God’s presence. What is required is an examination of the conscience—and these 10 examination questions go far deeper than even the 10 Commands of Moses.
The general requirement for being God’s friend is this: you must be blameless, or loyal, to God and honest all the way down. Walking blamelessly doesn’t mean sinless perfection; it speaks to moral uprightness or balance and consistency. (v. 2)
Then we come to various particulars. It’s too easy to make ourselves appear as if we meet the general description of uprightness.
First, the upright refuses to lie. Literally, they do not go about on their tongue.
Second, the upright keep peace with their community, both neighbors and friends. Because this command falls between two commands against sins of speech, keeping peace with your neighbor is focused on watching what you say about him.
Third, the upright refuse to hear lies. John Trapp said those who lie carry the devil in their tongue, and those who receive lies carry the devil in their ears. The proper response to a liar is a disgusted face (Prov. 25:23) (v. 3)
Fourth, the upright has no use for vile people. We are to despise vile people. This strikes us as impolite because we live in a relativistic culture that values universal politeness over uprightness. Biblical Christians know there are good guys and bad guys, and they have no use for bad guys.
Fifth, the upright honors fellow Christians. A sinner in a gold chain and silken robes is no more to be compared with a saint in rags than a tealight in a silver candlestick with the sun behind a cloud.
Sixth, the upright keep their word. Honest isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy.
Seventh, the upright doesn’t abuse the poor. This isn’t a condemnation of corporate loans. It’s a condemnation of practices designed to keep the poor, poor.
Eighth, the upright can’t be bought: not with money, not with influence, not with power, not with cultural cache.
Finally, the Psalm concludes with a promise: the righteous will never be moved. One day the mountain ranges of this world will crack and break, and all of the stars will fall from heaven and be smashed like cheap Christmas ornaments falling off the tree. But the righteous are unmovable. (v. 5)
WE ARE GOD’S GUESTS
God invites us into his tent. We do not invite him into our services. This isn’t our building. These aren’t our bodies. They are his. We aren’t primarily coming to receive something but to give something: namely our dutiful worship.
He has invited us into them, and just as we prepare ourselves to go to a dinner party with friends, we ought to prepare ourselves to worship God both in the body and this building through self-examination.
THE SOLEMNITY OF WORSHIP
For the last 30 years, the church in America had labored diligently to make worship as casual as possible. Congregants have become spectators at a concert receiving a service rather than an army of the redeemed going to war against sin and Satan. Psalm 15 makes the worship of the living God as dangerous and threatening to sin as possible. Sin destroys, and right worship destroys sin.
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling has seized the godless:
“Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?”
CHRIST MAKES US FIT FOR WORSHIP
What makes us fit for worship? What is it that brings us into the presence of God? Here again the church in America has failed. For the last 30 years, the focus has been placed on atmospherics as if the presence of Jehovah can be mediated through the lights, fog, & emotionally driven music.
But Psalm 15 declares the only way into God’s presence is by having a righteousness so perfect it can only come from a bleeding Christ. How can we live up to the requirements of this Psalm? What hope do we have of living as blameless and being invited into a permanent residence with God?
Spurgeon says of Psalm 15:
Psalm 15 describes the man who is a child at home in the Church of God on earth, and who will dwell in the house of the Lord forever above. He is primarily Jesus, the perfect man, and in him all who through grace are conformed to his image.
In other words, our invitation comes as we are both justified and sanctified through the grace of Christ. You are not merely justified by Christ; you are being sanctified, or set apart, for his exclusive use.
Our antinomian age would drain all the moral requirements out of this Psalm. We are saved by grace, not works right? But as Bible-believing Christians, we recognize that we are justified by a grace that works itself out through righteous living. And, though we never reach perfection in this life, God increasingly makes us more like that person he graciously invites to himself.
You have a new heart and a new Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:25-26) You are to be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48) You are to strive for the holiness, without which, no one will see God. (Heb. 12:14)
Thankfully, if you truly belong to Christ, this is being accomplished in you by Christ as he conforms you to his image.