Read: Psalm 15
In Psalm 15 David gives eleven qualities that are to define the righteous man. These qualities go beyond the letter of the law and exemplify exceptional devotion and real love for God’s law. David frames these qualities as necessary for those who wish to dwell in God’s tent – that is, who are acceptable in God’s sight, with whom God chooses to dwell. Many of these qualities concern interpersonal relationships. A right relationship with God requires a right relationship with others – and vice versa.
Think About It: According to Psalm 15, what are the eleven qualities David discerned were required of one worthy to dwell in the Lord’s tabernacle? How many of these qualities are primarily about relationships with others?
Prayer: Lord, may my relationship with You be reflected in my interactions with others.
Read: Psalm 15:2; Psalm 19:14; Psalm 104:34; Psalm 119:9 – 11; Matthew 15:11 – 18; John 1:47; Philippians 4:8; Genesis 6:5
Three of the qualities listed by the psalmist in Psalm 15 have to do with the inner life of the righteous person. The first inner quality regards his thought life: he “speaks truth in his heart” (v. 2). The worst kind of deception, and the lies that lead to absolute misery for us, are those that we tell to ourselves; woe unto us if we believe them. The very worst and most inconsistent human behavior is based on self-deception. For the psalmist, speaking the truth in the heart began with meditation on the law of God.
Think About It: Am I responsible to God for what I think? How are character and actions affected by inward thoughts? How can I be sure to speak the truth in my heart?
Prayer: Lord, may the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.
Read: Psalm 15:4; Esther 3:2; Psalm 119:63; Acts 28:10; 1 Corinthians 5:11
Two additional internal qualities are mentioned by the psalmist in Psalm 15:4 – despising the reprobate or vile person, and honoring those who fear the Lord. These inward values will of course be reflected in outward actions. One rabbinical view of this verse is that the vile person who is despised is the psalmist himself. In this view the psalmist is merely recognizing his own unworthiness before God, and expressing the desire to follow the example of those more godly than himself. There are, however, biblical examples of despising vileness in others in a way that is not judgmental, but reflects the requirement to endorse godly values. Mordecai refused to honor the vile Haman not because of personal pride but because of Haman’s wickedness. Paul instructed the Corinthians not even to eat with any openly immoral person who claimed to be a Christian. Who we despise and who we honor reflects our inner values.
Think About It: Does who we despise and who we honor also tend to shape our inner values? Who are my heroes, and who are my villains? How does my personal list of heroes and villains conform to the requirement of Psalm 15:4?
Prayer: Lord, please grant me wisdom to honor, and follow the examples of, godly people.
Read: Psalm 15:2 – 4; James 1:9, 26; 3:2 – 6; 9 – 12; 4:13 – 16
Most of the qualities in David’s list in Psalm 15 are outward qualities. In v. 2 he describes the resident of Zion as one who walks with blamelessly and who does what is righteous. The other outward qualities listed in the Psalm help to define what David means by this. A blameless walk will involve righteous speech: v. 3, “He does not slander with his tongue,” v. 4, “He swears to his own hurt, and does not change.” Slander is speech which, whether it is true or false, is designed to injure another person. Slander is the speech of the tale-bearer, the Hebrew word for slander is related to walking about and spying. The resident of Zion is not a tale-bearer, and if he makes a promise, he keeps it. The Bible contains two striking examples of promises that never should have been made in the first place: Joshua 9:14 – 18 and Judges 11:30 – 35. The emphasis on controlling the tongue is as much about not making rash promises as it is about keeping those promises.
Think About It: What insights do the passages from James give about godly speech? Why is controlling the tongue important? Is controlling the tongue an easy task?
Prayer: Lord, may the words of my mouth be acceptable in Your sight.
Read: Psalm 15:3; Proverbs 16:28; 18:8, 26:20, 22; Matthew 18:15 – 17
One interesting characteristic of the righteous resident of Zion is that he doesn’t take up a reproach against his friend. This may mean that he simply doesn’t easily take offense. However, it may also refer to avoiding the far more divisive and troubling practice of listening to the whisperer’s complaint and taking up the offense on his behalf.
Think About It: If I have a complaint against someone, what am I supposed to do with it, according to Jesus (Matthew 18:15 – 17)? When am I permitted to bring a question about sin to someone else other than the person I feel has committed the sin? Have I been following Jesus’ instructions?
Prayer: Lord, please help me remember to avail myself of Your grace to follow Your instructions.
Read: Psalm 15:5; Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35 – 38; Deuteronomy 23:19 – 20; Luke 14:13 – 14; 2 Corinthians 8:12 – 15
The person who dwells closely with the Lord does not put out his money at interest. This quality of the righteous person was a specific requirement of Mosaic Law, and was designed to help keep Israelites out of poverty. The Old Testament system prohibited the concentration of inherited wealth in the hands of a few by preserving the patrimony of the tribes; it corrected for temporary misfortunes that could otherwise drive a family into permanent poverty; it rewarded those who worked, but offered nothing to the lazy and shiftless.
Think About It: How can this Old Testament principle be interpreted in the present-day economic environment? What are some of the ways our current system exploits, rather than helps, the poor? How can I avoid exploiting, and being exploited, by our system?
Prayer: Lord, may I always be willing and able to provide for the legitimate needs of others.
Read: Psalm 15:5; Exodus 18:21, 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; 1 Samuel 8:3
The godly resident of the Lord’s tabernacle does not take a bribe against the innocent. This would seem to be a fairly easy requirement to meet for most people, since most of us have never been offered a bribe for any reason. However the specific quality of being above bribery means that the godly person will not seek to profit in any way from someone else’s misfortune.
Think About It: What are some contemporary ways that the misfortune of one person is exploited for the gain of another person? In what situations might it be possible for me to profit from someone else’s loss? What does Psalm 15:5 promise those who are committed to integrity and equity in their dealings with others?
Prayer: Lord, please help me to be a person of integrity, committed to equity.