Recently a shop owner was asked if he knew someone who could perform a special job that he himself was unable do. His reply was, “Yes, I know of a man who can do it, but he is slower than the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.” This response illustrates the time in which we are living. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Indeed, vast numbers of people today do not believe Christ will ever return.
What scoffers fail to realize is:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy [conduct] and godliness. (2 Pet. 3:9-11)
What we need to realize is that when Christ returns there will be no doubt. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:” (Matt. 25:31). “For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many” (Isa. 66:15-16). The question we need to face is this: “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Mal. 3:2-3).
What will be the outcome of this refining and purifying?
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left . . . . Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels . . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:32-33, 41, 46).
Yes, indeed. When that day comes who will stand?
David asked the question: “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” (Ps. 15:1). God’s tabernacle and holy hill are symbols of the Kingdom of God. What David really asked was: Who will be in God’s kingdom?
Here is the answer:
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. (Ps. 15:2-5)
Consider Psalm 15:2. Notice what Jesus said about righteousness in Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6). What is righteousness? Here is how the Bible defines righteousness: “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Ps. 119:172). Righteousness is the keeping of God’s Law. Psalm 15 expresses those commandments.
The Bible has much to say about those who are righteous. “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Ps. 37:30-31). A man such as this need not fear calamity. He has the promise of God’s blessings.
Psalm 15:2 tells us that the man who will be in the Kingdom of God speaks the truth in his heart. The heart is figurative for the mind, the attitude of a person, and the mode of life-who one truly is. Such a person’s speech will truly represent what is in the heart. A righteous man is not hypocritical. He is honest in all he says and does. He will not lie, cheat, misrepresent, or defraud. Jesus amplified this when He said: “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things” (Matt. 12:35). This is why He said: “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). One’s speech is important. It will reveal one of two things. It will honestly reflect what is down deep inside, or it will disguise one’s true purpose and intent. The mouth, in effect, is the spokesman of the soul. If one is pretending what he is not, sooner or later he will be discovered, for the truth always raises its ugly head.
What does the Bible say about hypocrisy? “He [God] also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him” (Job 13:16). ” . . . The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment?” (Job 20:5). “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?” (Job 27:8). “An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but through knowledge shall the just be delivered” (Prov. 11:9).
David wrote that what God desires is truth in the inward parts (Ps. 51:6). Why? “The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Prov. 12:19). God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) is concerned with truth. “O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth . . . ( Jer. 5:3).” Nothing is hidden from God (Rom 2:16). He alone knows the real intent and longings in each one of us. “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known” (Luke 12:2).
What is the coming judgment for those who are dishonest? “Thou shalt destroy them that speak [lies] . . . ” (Ps. 5:6). “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:7-8). “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs [a metaphor signifying an impure mind], and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev. 22:14-15).
In addition, the righteous man does not backbite with his tongue (Ps. 15:6). He will not say despicable and spiteful things about his fellow man. This is not to say one should not be aware of human nature, or to speak of the evil things that men do. But we must learn to separate the act from the person. Why? Because, occasionally, all of us do things that are sinful. “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:20). This is why the Bible states: “Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth . . . ” (Ps. 140:11). Earlier we noted that a hypocrite uses his tongue to destroy his neighbor. As Christians we are admonished: “Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” (Jas. 4:11). Hatred is the motive behind this kind of behavior (Prov. 26:24).
What are Christians expected to do? They are expected to control their tongues. “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:1-2). It is very difficult for most people to properly control their tongues.
This is why the Apostle James wrote:
For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. (Jas. 3:2-9)
Misuse of the tongue can be an evil against one’s neighbor, often manifesting itself in severe criticism, or actively engaging in destructive acts, including gossip. The misuse of the tongue is only one aspect. We are told not to raise a false report (Ex. 23:1), or to go about as a talebearer among the people (Lev. 19:16), or to be a false accuser (2 Tim. 3:3). “An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire” (Prov. 16:27). Psalm 15:3 censures anyone who “doeth evil to his neighbor.” One’s neighbor is one’s fellow man. While many are concerned about themselves and their families, they have little concern for others. This is often manifested by taking advantage of others in business relationships, by theft and burglary, vandalism, or carrying out acts of vengeance against real or imagined wrongs, as well as a plethora of things too numerous to mention. These acts all represent a lack of concern for others. All are forms of hatred. We have all probably seen or experienced this conduct in some way. It is totally unacceptable to God. Who, then, will be in God’s kingdom? The answer: The man who does not practice these things.
We are told in Psalm 15:4 that righteous men disregard vile persons, that is, they consider them contemptible. A vile person is one who is rejected by God. Does that mean the righteous hate the vile? No, it simply means the righteous man gives no honor to those who do not deserve to be honored. A righteous man respects men for their character-according to their moral qualities-and by the fruit they bear. A righteous man is not influenced by wealth, power, popularity, or eminence. A righteous man has nothing in common with the vile; consequently he has no interest in close associations with them. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 5:11 to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful fruits of darkness.” What did David mean when he said he had a perfect hatred for those who hate the Lord? (Ps. 139:21-22). He meant he hated what they did, but he did not hate the individual person. This is perfect hatred. If a vile sinner repented and turned to God, the righteous would readily accept him into fellowship, and his evil ways would be forgotten. This is how the righteous feel and act toward vile people. Like God, the righteous man not only forgives but also forgets.
Another characteristic of a righteous man is that he “honoureth them that fear the Lord . . . ” (Ps. 15:4). What does it mean to fear of the Lord? It means to respect God’s commandments and laws (Deut. 6:2). It means to detest evil (Ps. 97:10). “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way . . . ” (Prov. 8:13). It means to walk in uprightness (Prov. 14:2). These are the people the righteous man seeks for companions. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:63).
Notice what they often do.
Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. (Mal. 3:16-18)
There is a special affinity that exists among those who fear the Lord. The Apostle Paul urged the Christian brethren not to be weary in well doing, especially toward brothers of the faith. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10). This desire for goodness is the mark of a righteous man.
Psalm 15:4 also gives a most important requirement for a righteous man. It reads as follows: ” . . . He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not” (Ps. 15:4). A man is only as good as his word. If one’s word is not good, neither is the man. A righteous man keeps his word. Though many people fail to realize the importance of keeping their word, doing so is a mark of true character. Psalm 15:4 shows that a man who is righteous will keep his word even if what he has promised will harm him. A righteous man will keep his word no matter what. There is a reason the Bible tells us: “That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform . . . ” (Deut. 23:23). In addition to this, Jesus instructs not to make careless oaths, that is, to swear falsely or perjure oneself. Why? An honest man does not need to perform oaths. “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne . . . . But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt. 5:33-34, 37). The Apostle James adds: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation” (Jas. 5:12).
The above Scriptures, along with what we read in Psalm 15:4, should make it abundantly clear that the proper use of the tongue is extremely important. Carelessness in its use is not a small matter in the eyes of God.
Greed and taking advantage of the misfortune of others is a tendency among many today. But this practice is not new. Psalm 15:5 states that a righteous man will not pursue this form of behavior. We read the following about a righteous man: “He that putteth not out his money to usury. . . ” Usury can best be defined as excessive interest on a charitable loan. The notion that no interest should ever be taken is fallacious and not substantiated in the Bible. Jesus Himself sanctioned it under certain circumstances (Matt. 25:27). The Old Testament instructs: “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury” (Ex. 22:25). “And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee” (Lev. 25:35). What is emphasized by these Scriptures is a willingness to help those in need. If the Bible taught lenders were forbidden from taking a reasonable amount of interest on their loans, borrowers who are prosperous enough to recompense the lender for the risk he takes, would take full advantage of the opportunity, and there would be no end of the abuse. If no interest could be taken under any circumstances, there would be few funds available for any enterprise.
Psalm 15:5 also tells that the righteous man does not take advantage of the poor or needy, “nor taketh reward against the innocent . . . ” It demonstrates that a righteous man cannot be bribed to implicate or testify falsely against the innocent. How many men have been unjustly accused or prosecuted today because someone took a bribe? We would probably be shocked to know the extent of this in both business and law. In the courts judges have been bribed, and so have witnesses. Some innocent men have spent years behind bars because of this kind of conspiracy.
The Bible tells us that: “A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies” (Prov. 14:5).” A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies” (Prov. 14:25). “An ungodly witness scorneth judgment: and the mouth of the wicked devoureth iniquity” (Prov. 19:28). “A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame” (Prov. 13:5).
While many who bear false witness think they will never be found out, the Bible warns: “A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape . . . . A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish” (Prov. 19:5, 9). One of the Ten Commandments states: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex. 20:16). As we have seen, righteousness is defined in the Bible as the keeping of God’s Commandments (Ps. 119:172). To pervert justice by taking a reward against the innocent is a heinous sin in the eyes of God. Those who do so and refuse to repent will surely suffer the consequences. See Revelation 22:14.
This 15th Psalm gives us a summary of what God requires of a righteous man. While many may find these requirements impossible to live up to, Jesus reminded His disciples: ” . . . With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). The tabernacle of God symbolizes God’s kingdom. The 15th Psalm tells us who will be in that kingdom. Then it closes by stating: “He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (Ps. 15:5). This Psalm teaches us what is required to enter the Kingdom of God. This is the only goal in life worth seeking.