1 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
2 He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart;
3 He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;
4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the LORD;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Last night, just before getting into bed, I decided to read Psalm 15 and take some notes on the passage. And what struck me was that security, or stability in standing before the Lord , given in v. 5b, is conditioned upon this hypothetical person’s moral purity. The question – “…who may abide n Your tabernacle?” – then becomes an indictment against us all, who have not walked uprightly, worked unrighteousness, lied in our hearts (consider the inverse of v. 2c), slandered others, done evil to our neighbor, reproached our own friends. And if that isn’t enough, we have not despised evil as we ought to, nor honored and feared Him as we ought to, while we have sworn to our own hurt only to back out of our promises when it looks like we might have to make good on those promises (!), lent out our money expecting it (and some!) back, while we have jeopardized the well being of others in order to benefit our own selfish selves.
And yet the only sermons and commentaries I could find on this passagewere ones that were concerned with urging its readers to be this man who shall never be moved.
Am I wrong in thinking that those who see in this primarily (and merely) a call to moral excellence completely miss the point?
Those who read the psalm as a call to moral improvement alone are neglecting something very obviously laid out in this psalm. Namely, that these are conditions placed upon the man who would abide in the Lord’s tabernacle, dwell in His holy hill, and do so for time without end. Is any one of us ready to say that we qualify? Is any one of us bold enough to declare “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Prov. 20:9) To be sure, we who have been born of God are being sanctified daily by His Spirit, as the Word of Christ dwells in us richly and He conforms us into Christ’s image. However, there is no one of us – honestly looking at our own sinfulness, our own propensity to take two steps forward and five steps back in our Christian walk – who can claim the sort of spiritual/moral perfection that is required here by God in order to abide with the Lord, and dwell with Him securely forever.
But there is One who can.
It is Jesus Christ who walked uprightly, worked righteousness, and is the Truth. It is the Son of God who reviled not when He was reviled (cf. 1 Peter 2:23), did nothing but good to His neighbor, and who, although betrayed by Judas and abandoned by His remaining disciples, did not take up reproach against His friends. The Lord Jesus alone has fulfilled all of these requirements. By faith, a faith given as a gift to those He has adopted as sons and daughters, we are justified, and by faith alone. The righteousness of “He who does these things” has been imputed to us, and we shall never be moved because He ever lives to intercede for us before the Father (cf. Heb. 7:24-28 & 1 John 2:1).
We are indeed called to holiness, and we are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, but we are also told to look unto Jesus, “He who does these things,” the King which God has set upon His holy hill (cf. Ps. 2:6. Note that salvation is granted here to those who put their trust in Christ, who dwells on God’s holy hill, see 2:11-12).