Psalm 15 reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.” Kipling’s poem describes what the poet understood to comprise manhood. And it is quite the list of traits.
Psalm 15 begins with David asking two related questions: Who can abide in God’s tent? and Who can dwell on God’s hill? One of these questions is about communion while the other is about walking in blessing.
The concept of God’s tent; God’s tabernacle was synonymous with the idea of God’s presence. To abide in the tabernacle would be to always be in the presence of God. That is, David wants to know how to have on-going communion; fellowship with God.
The idea of dwelling on God’s hill has more to do with Jerusalem as a whole and the fulfillment of God’s promises, which leads me to think that the second question is about living a blessed life. David’s life was not always easy, but it was a life of blessing and David understood that blessing and hardship are not mutually exclusive things.
David’s list of traits is a good one. He says that the person who wants on-going fellowship with God and a life of blessing must walk in integrity (words and actions align), do righteousness, speak the truth in his heart (not a liar), not be a slanderer (or a gossip), do no evil to his neighbor, not take up a reproach against his friend (not be judgmental), honor those who fear God and not keep company with those who do not, keep his promises (especially the promises that will cause him hurt or discomfort), not charge interest of his fellow Israelites, and not take bribes.
David’s list is good, but it is not perfect. Conspicuous by their absence are attributes that pertain to the home life. There is nothing on the list about loving one’s spouse and children or about being faithful to your marriage vows (things at which David did not excel). David’s list is all outward facing; all public sphere. David has listed the things that I can do while away from home. And, in his defense, he would have spent a great deal of time away from home. So the contents of this list make sense.
What has this to do with me and how can I apply it? It is both applicable and not applicable. Because of the completed work of Jesus on the cross, I am no longer subject to lists of Dos and Don’ts. I do not approach God on the basis of my works or merit, but on the finished work and perfect merit of Jesus Christ. David’s list is still praiseworthy and the the attributes in it well worthy of pursuit. I should seek to be these things. Not because I think they will make me acceptable to God, but because Jesus Christ has made me acceptable to God and being the things David lists would please my Lord. This list, and many others like it, are not there to judge me any longer, but to give me goals to reach toward. The case is no longer one of demanding integrity without providing power, but of inviting me to live a life of integrity and empowering me to do so.
Father, this list is good and these traits praiseworthy. Please help me to fix my mind on such things and seek to draw on Your power in my life to live them out. Not because I seek to justify myself — I cannot do what only Christ’s work on the cross could do — but because these things please You and I would dearly like to live in a way that pleases You.