Thomas Jefferson called this psalm the picture of a true gentleman. Not only that, it is the picture of true righteousness and describes what is required for one to enter the Kingdom of God. Righteousness, according to the Bible, is the keeping of God’s Commandments (Ps. 119:172). The question that is asked by David is this: “LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” (Ps. 15:1). The tabernacle or holy hill represent God’s Kingdom. David averred in Psalm 27:4, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” So it is vital that we examine who shall abide in this tabernacle of God-the Kingdom of God.
A similar question is asked in Isaiah 33:14-17.
. . . Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
While some have interpreted the above to refer to a place of safety during a time of tribulation, the devouring fire and everlasting burnings doe not fit into the context. A reference to the splendor of the divine majesty as a consuming fire does. Compare Exodus 3:2. While being sustained with the physical necessities of life, seeing the king in his beauty and a land that is far off foreshadows the Kingdom of God.
How important are uprightness and righteousness? According to the Scriptures below, blessings and protection are in store for the righteous.
“He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly” (Prov. 2:7). “Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once” (Prov. 28:18). “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). “O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the LORD straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?” (Micah 2:7).
Yes, indeed, good things come by walking uprightly. Foremost is the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Old Testament righteousness required living by the letter of the law, but since Psalm 15 gives the promise of eternal life, its intent concerns the spirit of the law-the real change required in the heart and mind. The application of spiritual righteousness is defined as the keeping of God’s Commandments. Thus, we read: “If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is [begotten] of him” (1 John 2:29). “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous” (1 John 3:7).
What did David first advise in Psalm 15:2? He said that one must speak the truth in his heart. Truthfulness, highly regarded by God, is emphasized in the Old Testament. “These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates” (Zech. 8:16). Who really are the people of God? “For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour” (Isa. 63:8).
We may recall how Paul admonished the brethren: “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:10). Being sincere means being truthful, so Christians are instructed: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25).
Psalm 15 begins by asking the question who will abide in God’s tabernacle. Verse three stresses another requirement: “He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.” What is the consequence? “What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Ps. 34:12-13). Yet, is this what goes on today? Jeremiah described it. “Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother: for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders” (Jer. 9:4).
Paul described these “last days”:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. (2 Tim. 3:1-3)
Blaspheming and falsely accusing others is a source of much pain for the righteous today. It is a curse that will be reckoned with. “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer” (Ps. 101:5).
A number of Old Testament Scriptures warn against the abuse of the tongue. In one case, to falsely accuse another brought about a severe penalty (Deut. 22:14-19).
“Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness” (Ex. 23:1). “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:16).
Jesus gave a stern warning about saying things that were not based on fact. ” . . . I say unto you, That every idle [barren, without merit] word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).
Other New Testament Scriptures address the misuse of the tongue: “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). “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).
Psalm 15:4 considers three more important requirements. One who walks uprightly detests the despicable man or woman. Rather, he respects and honors those who fear God. And once he takes an oath, he refuses to retract it no matter what. The verse reads: “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.”
While the physical body is itself vile (Phil. 3:21), the vileness spoken of here is moral in nature. It is like the sons of Eli who had cast off all restraint. “Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD” (1 Sam. 2:12). They refused to follow the sacrificial procedures given by God to Moses. “Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD: for men abhorred the offering of the LORD” (v. 17). “Now Eli was very old, and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel; and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” (v. 22).
And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. (1 Sam. 3:11-13)
The upright are careful with whom they associate. They refuse to mingle closely with those who do not fear God or who disrespect His Law. “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts” (Ps. 119:63). “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” (Mal. 3:16).
In addition, the upright are not respecters of persons. “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool” (Jas. 2:1-3). Honor and respect shown toward others should be based upon righteous character, not on economic status or physical appearance.
Psalm 15:4 adds another important principle: ” . . . He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” To swear in the Old Testament was to give one’s sacred word in testimony that the one swearing would faithfully perform what was promised. The matter of taking oaths, therefore, is important. Why?
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: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Matt. 5:33-37)
In brief, Jesus said it was not necessary for Christians to take oaths. Their word should be sufficient and good.
Below is Old Testament instruction which illustrates the seriousness of keeping oaths:
“If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth” (Num. 30:2). “That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a freewill offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the LORD thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth” (Deut. 23:23). “Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared” (Ps. 76:11). “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed” (Eccl. 5:4).
Psalm 15:5 addresses two final requirements. “He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” Usury is generally considered taking interest on a charitable loan. What is exemplified is greediness and taking advantage of those less fortunate.
The Nelson Bible Dictionary gives a good summary of the word “usury.”
USURY-interest paid on borrowed money. In the Bible the word usury does not necessarily have the negative connotations of our modern meaning of lending money at an excessive interest rate. Instead, it usually means the charging of interest on money that has been loaned.
The Old Testament prohibited charging usury to fellow Israelites; the need of one’s countryman was not to become an opportunity for profit (Ex 22:25, Deut 23:19-20, Neh 5:1-13). However, foreigners were traders and merchants, and usury was a part of their everyday lives. Thus they could be charged usury (Deut 23:20).
By the time of the New Testament, Israel’s economy had changed so much from Old Testament days that usury was common practice, even among God’s people. Therefore, Jesus did not condemn receiving usury. But He did insist that the rates be fair and justly applied (Matt 25:27, Luke 19:23). Usury, as in all other aspects of life, was to be handled in a spirit of love and genuine concern for the welfare of others (Luke 6:31).
“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). “Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury” (Deut. 23:19).
Yet, many Israelites did not adhere to these laws. Ezekiel wrote “In thee have they taken gifts [bribes NKJV] to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 22:12).
Bribery often went hand in hand with greediness. Micah condemned bribe-takers: “That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up” (Micah 7:3). “Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift [bribe, NKJV] doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous” (Deut. 16:19).
In the Scriptures one thing is certain. “A man shall not be established by wickedness: but the root of the righteous shall not be moved” (Prov. 12:3). Those who charge excessive interest and take bribes are wicked. What is God’s promise to those who heed the instruction in Psalm 15? “. . . He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (v. 5).
©2007 Bethel Church of God