A psalm of David.
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose way of life is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbour,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honours those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things(Ps. 15:1-5 NIV)
will never be shaken.
The question that the Psalmist asks in v1 is one question asked in two ways. The meaning of the question is ‘Who can come and worship God?’ The answer comes in four lists of conditions that the worshipper must fulfil.
- Positive conditions (v2)
Way of life blameless
Does what is righteous
Speaks truth from the heart
- Negative conditions (v3)
Utters no slander
Does no wrong to neighbours
Casts no slur on others
- Positive conditions (v4)
Despises vile people, honours those who fear the Lord
Keeps promises even when it hurts, and doesn’t change their mind
- Negative conditions (v5)
No financial exploitation of the poor
The first set of conditions seem quite spiritual especially as seen in contrast to the other three lists. Our fitness to enter God’s presence is related to how we relate with our neighbours, what we say to them and what we say about them. Even the way business is conducted in the workplace is listed as a condition. What we are outside the presence of God governs whether or not we are permitted into God’s presence. This outline of the nature and character of the person who can come into God’s presence seems to disqualify us all. What transforms this Psalm from a barrier to a gateway to God’s presence, is the realisation that our worship is mediated through Christ. The worship event begins with God calling us to worship. That is why we begin our morning and evening services not with prayer, not with singing, but with the Word of God. God takes the initiative and then we respond by coming singing into His presence, singing a Psalm or Hymn which focuses on God. We then call upon the name of God in our prayer of invocation and because we know that we have not kept the conditions to be a worshipper, so we confess our sins and receive the assurance of forgiveness from the Word of God. Failing to keep the ten conditions perfectly, we require forgiveness as we enter the divine presence. The privilege of worship should never be taken for granted, the privilege of worship should never be exploited.
The words ‘dwell’ and ‘live’ have the idea of a refugee who possesses no right of place before God, but resides because of the permission of God. The Psalmist is not advocating sinlessness here. We ought to strive to meet these conditions, but we ought to confess how we have failed to reach this very high standard. The Psalmist has us explore our relationships with others. The words we speak and how we speak are important to consider if we plan to come into God’s presence.
The promise of the Psalm is that we shall never be shaken. If we do these things and confess our faults, then there is a place for us in God’s presence and in God’s presence we will never be shaken.
Lord the question about your presence and the conditions required for worship are most challenging especially since we are not able to gather together and join in corporate worship. Forgive our sinful speech, for talking too much because of pride, for talking too little because of fear, for telling lies because of pride and fear, for words that have been harsh and cutting, for damaging others’ reputations through gossip. Lord heal our relationships so that we may freely come and worship you, for Christ our Saviour’s sake, in whose name we pray. Amen