So, the question Psalm 15 raises for us is this: Lord God, what is it like to be the kind of person who is fit to live in Your Presence from day to day? We are invited into a life in the presence of God. And, by the grace of God we are enabled to live lives pleasing to God. What are we told about this kind of life? It is a life of wholehearted devotion and a life of inner integrity.
I am reminded of a verse from the New Testament: “…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NRSV). Walking with God means continually walking in the light of God. There is a kind of honesty and openness and transparency to it. Our hearts are open to God and to others — insofar as that is possible for us.
Now, notice the qualities of the person who walks with God in this wholehearted devotion.
לֹא־רָגַל עַל־לְשֹׁנוֹ לֹא־עָשָׂה לְרֵעֵהוּ רָעָה וְחֶרְפָּה לֹא־נָשָׂא עַל־קְרֹבוֹ
“who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends”
How many churches are filled with gossip and backbiting? How many church prayer chains are really the local gossip line? How many churches are blurting out sensitive and (theoretically) confidential medical information during the morning prayer time?
Many years ago I heard a teenage girl describe one of her co-workers at an area nursing home this way: “Typical Christian — she talks about people.”
Since when is the typical Christian a judgmental gossip?
It is time for all such behavior to stop among the people of God. Those who have been justified by faith alone have no business judging others.
נִבְזֶה בְּעֵינָיו נִמְאָס וְאֶת־יִרְאֵי יְהוָה יְכַבֵּד נִשְׁבַּע לְהָרַע וְלֹא יָמִר
“who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts….”
Those who are devoted to God do not judge by outward appearance. Rich and poor mean nothing; famous and unknown mean nothing. It is those who fear God and do what is right who are honored whoever they are.
To “fear” (יָרֵא) God is to recognize God’s authority over our life. There is a Higher Power to whom we must answer for our life. Those who thus “fear” God do not act purely out of self interest, or the impulses of the moment. They recognize their accountability to God.
Those who are devoted to God keep their promises. They are faithful and loyal. A promise even a promise to a child is never a small thing. If it is made, it is to be kept whatever the cost may be.
כַּסְפּוֹ לֹא־נָתַן בְּנֶשֶׁךְ וְשֹׁחַד עַל־נָקִי לֹא לָקָח עֹשֵׂה־אֵלֶּה לֹא יִמּוֹט לְעוֹלָם
“…who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.”
Lending at interest is called usury. And, it was forbidden to the Israelites to practice usury among their own people. “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent. On loans to a foreigner you may charge interest, but on loans to another Israelite you may not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your undertakings in the land that you are about to enter and possess.” (Deuteronomy 23:19, 20 NRSV)
A society whose economy is based upon lending money at interest has a problem at its very heart. A society in which more and more Quick Cash stores open to support casino gambling addiction has a problem. The godly do not lend with the intention of making a profit. They lend with the intention of helping.
Those who are devoted to God cannot be bribed. They do what is right because it is right — whether it is profitable or not.
Those who live this way will be established, upheld by God. “They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.” (Psalms 1:3 NRSV).
We pray to be the people transformed and upheld by grace — that can live in the presence of God, where there is peace and strength.
And, for a prayer response — covering this whole Psalm — consider these words from Washington Gladden (1836-1918):
O Master, let me walk with thee
in lowly paths of service free;
tell me thy secret; help me bear
the strain of toil, the fret of care.
Help me the slow of heart to move
by some clear, winning word of love;
teach me the wayward feet to stay,
and guide them in the homeward way.
Teach me thy patience; still with thee
in closer, dearer company,
in work that keeps faith sweet and strong,
in trust that triumphs over wrong;
In hope that sends a shining ray
far down the future’s broadening way,
in peace that only thou canst give,
with thee, O Master, let me live.