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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 15

Verse 1


Psalm 15, like Psalm 1, is a wisdom psalm, a psalm of instruction for the believing remnant. This instruction is given to the people by those of the people who have insight (Daniel 11:33), bringing the people to an understanding of what their day is all about and especially, Who it is all about, which is the Messiah.

Psalm 15 is the flip side of Psalm 14. In Psalm 16 David speaks of the Person Who is the complete opposite of the fool of Psalm 14 and has fulfilled all the conditions of Psalm 15.

The Question

For “A Psalm of David” see at Psalm 3:1.

It is the first psalm in which there is no further indication, unlike in previous psalms of which he is mentioned as the poet.

The severe persecution by the wicked (Psalms 12:1-Joshua :; Psalms 14:4) raises the question of who can be preserved to enter the realm of peace. Psalm 15 answers the question. He shows us the spiritual features of the faithful remnant who will enter the realm of peace.

There are some clues that presuppose a connection with the preceding psalm. There David speaks of the fool who says in his heart that there is no God (Psalms 14:1). Here he speaks of one who “speaks truth in his heart” (Psalms 15:2). There he says that there is no one who does good and seeks after God. Here he asks God who can abide and dwell with Him (Psalms 15:1), that is, enter the realm of peace to be with Him there.

The two-fold question “who” does not refer to the identity of the person, but to the type of person, to his features (cf. Psalms 24:3; Isaiah 33:14-Nehemiah :; Revelation 5:2). The question refers to “abiding” in God’s “tent” and “dwelling on” God’s “holy hill”. The word “abide” – Hebrew yagur – means to abide as a stranger. The question freely translated means: who can come to Him as a guest?

This means that it is not about approaching God only incidentally, on a special occasion, but about being with Him constantly for the enjoyment of fellowship with Him. It is about having access to God at all times. This is the part of the righteous in the realm of peace. He may abide in the house of God, the temple of God on Mount Zion. This is not the part of the evildoer (Psalms 5:5).

David poses this question to the “LORD”. He knows that only the LORD determines the conditions for abiding with Him and that it is not up to him to do so. This is very different from what many people do, even today. They decide for themselves how to approach God, if they even think He exists at all.

Two words are used for the dwelling place of God: “Your tent” and “Your holy hill”. “Tent” is the translation of the word for “tabernacle”. David placed the tabernacle on Mount Zion, God’s “holy mountain” (2 Samuel 6:1-Psalms :). He will have thought of that, but without referring to it here. In the tabernacle, in fact, no one, not even the priests and not even the high priest, can abide there all the time. God Himself is called by Moses in his blessing for the twelve tribes “a dwelling place” for His people (Deuteronomy 33:27; cf. Isaiah 8:14).

God dwells on His holy hill. This is Mount Zion, the mountain over which God has said that He has anointed His King (Psalms 2:6). Now we see that He has not only anointed His King there, but also dwells there. We see here the connection between dwelling and reigning. He dwells where He rules, and He rules where He dwells. Both dwelling and ruling take place in “holiness”. In that holy place all the righteous will also dwell with Him in the realm of peace. They possess through the new birth (John 3:3; John 3:5) the features He gives in the following verses. They will dwell with Him and reign with Him, for they are holy, as He is holy (Leviticus 11:45; 1 Peter 1:15-Nehemiah :).

Verses 2-5

The Answer

The answer to the ‘who-question’ is the description of someone in whom some positive features are present and some negative features are missing. First come three positive features (Psalms 15:2). First, whoever wants to abide with God, whoever wants to be with Him to have fellowship with Him, is someone “who walks with integrity”. In the heart of such a person is the sincere mind to live honestly and faithfully before God and men (Genesis 17:1).

The second positive feature of such a person is that he “works righteousness”. This feature indicates that he gives each one what he is entitled to. To work righteousness is to act according to what is right before God. God is righteous in all His actions. He always gives everyone what each person deserves. This is true in both reward and punishment.

Someone who can dwell with God is, thirdly, someone “speaks truth in his heart”. He can be trusted in what he says, for it comes from a pure and clean heart, a heart in which there is no deceit (cf. John 1:47). His heart, the center of his being, controls his words. His words and his heart are in harmony with each other.

In summary, we see in the three features mentioned
1. a walk that is focused on God, which manifests itself in
2. deeds and
3. words.
These features meet the expectations of God and people.

Then, in Psalms 15:3, three negative features are mentioned, things that are lacking in someone who is at home with God. The first feature can be connected to the third positive feature. He who speaks the truth in his heart will not slander with his tongue. The Hebrew word for slander means to go around and spread negative talk. In our time, this happens very quickly via smartphone and internet. He will not gossip, throw mud or drag others through the mud. In the words of the apostle James, there is no spring in such a person that “send out from the same opening [both] fresh and bitter [water]” (James 3:11).

Second, he is one who “does no evil to his neighbor”. The word for neighbor here – Hebrew rea – means fellow man. The word “friend” has a similar meaning. The feature of a believer is therefore recognizable here in that he does not participate in slander and acts justly with his fellow man. This is one of the conditions for being able to serve and worship the Lord.

Also “against his friend” the righteous one will not “take up a reproach”. He will not put him in a bad light. He covers the neighbor’s evil with love (cf. Romans 13:10). Even if it is true, he will not speak of it to others. If colleagues or other people speak defamatory words about their neighbor – the modern “mobbing”, which is the intentional hurting of others – he will not participate in it.

All these things he does not do out of respect for his fellow man. This respect comes from his fear of God (cf. Genesis 42:18). He loves his neighbor as himself (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39-:). This does not mean that he is naive and also loves what is objectionable. There is no question of that, for in his “eyes a reprobate is despised” (Psalms 15:4). He distinguishes between “the reprobate” and “those who fear the LORD”.

The “reprobate” is the wicked, one who is rejected by God because of his stubborn rebellion against Him, with Whom he does not wish to reckon. It is someone who willfully lives in sin and persists in it. Such a person he despises, while he “honors” those who fear the LORD. To despise is not to disdain, but to keep a distance from sin by keeping a distance from those who persist in living in sin and love to do so. We see this difference in Abraham’s dealings with the king of Sodom on the one hand and with Melchizedek on the other (Genesis 14:17-Jeremiah :).

Those who dwell with the LORD are not led by what they see. The wicked can have great influence and those who fear the LORD can be a nobody. The righteous one judges someone from God’s presence. He thereby shows that he has the Divine nature, for that is how God also views people (1 Samuel 2:30).

He keeps his word and does what he has promised. Even if he “swears to his own hurt”, he will “not change” his oath. Even then, he will do what he has pledged to do. That is how completely reliable he is in what he has said (cf. Ecclesiastes 5:4-Joshua :; Matthew 5:37). It does not mean that he made an oath without thinking. It is about the fact that he has consciously committed himself to an act which he knows will cause harm to himself but benefit another.

This, like everything else mentioned as features of the righteous, is especially true of the Lord Jesus. He takes upon Himself the obligation to do God’s will when He says to God: “Behold, I have come to do Your will” (Hebrews 10:9). And He kept His word at the cost of His life. This resulted in many being saved from eternal death through Him (Hebrews 10:10).

If a neighbor is so impoverished that he must borrow, the righteous will lend money to his neighbor, but without charging interest (Psalms 15:5).We must keep in mind that otherwise the impoverished person will be forced to sell himself or his children as slaves in order to pay the debts (Leviticus 25:39; Nehemiah 5:5). According to the law, an Israelite may not profit from the financial distress into which a fellow Israelite has fallen through misfortune. Lending to a poor person at interest is forbidden because it will place the poor person even deeper in debt (Exodus 22:25-Daniel :; Leviticus 25:35-Zephaniah :; Deuteronomy 23:19).

He is also incorruptible. “A bribe against the innocent” is the payment for the crime of concealing or distorting the truth. Thus, a judge or witness can be bribed to the detriment of the poor (cf. Isaiah 1:23). Such conduct is strictly forbidden in the law (Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19). The prophets have time and again strongly condemned the practice of bribery to bend the law (Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 5:23; Amos 5:12; cf. Proverbs 15:27; Proverbs 17:8Proverbs 17:23).

For us New Testament believers, the answer to the ‘who-question’ is of an entirely different nature. This has to do with the fact that the dwelling place of God is not a geographically determined place, but a place that has spiritual features (cf. John 4:20-Jeremiah :). Everyone who has new life is “in the household of God, which is the church of the living God” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Believers are to behave in it according to the precepts God has given for it, for it is His house (1 Timothy 3:15). All who are in it are “fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). They may continually live in and enjoy fellowship with God. To truly enjoy that fellowship, they must have part with Him, that is, be cleansed by the washing with the water of God’s Word (John 13:8; John 13:10; Ephesians 5:26).

In Psalms 15:5 is the answer to the question posed in Psalms 15:1. The answer we expect is that the person who “does these things”, that is, the things mentioned in Psalms 15:2-Deuteronomy :, may dwell with God to draw near to Him. This answer is obvious in any case, because that is what the question in Psalms 15:1 is about. However, the answer is worded differently and appears to be out of place. Whoever does the things mentioned “will never be shaken” (cf. Luke 6:48).

Yet it is a striking answer, which implies even more than just dwelling with God. Dwelling with God is subject to attack, but the promise is that the attackers from without will never achieve any success. Likewise, inwardly he will never be overcome by doubt or cause to wander away from God’s dwelling of his own accord.

The “things” done or not done consist of three positive things in Psalms 15:2, three negative things in Psalms 15:3, two positive things in Psalms 15:4 and two negative things in Psalms 15:5, a total of ten things. This recalls the law of the ten commandments, noting that it is a test of heart and conduct. Gross sins like murder and adultery are not mentioned.

The point of referring to the law is that only obedience to the commandments of God allows access to God’s sanctuary to dwell there. We must also remember that this does not involve formal obedience to His commandments. God is not satisfied with mere outward tribute. He desires total dedication to Him throughout life in all its aspects. This is possible only when the heart is focused on Him.

Never has any man been able to fulfill all the conditions of God. No man can keep the law, for the law is an unbearable yoke (Acts 15:10). God’s conditions can only be fulfilled through the new life. This comes about in the realm of peace. Into it enter all those who have acknowledged guilt in the death of the Messiah.

When they see Him whom they have pierced, they will mourn over Him (Zechariah 12:10-2 Chronicles :). In response, God will give His law in their innermost being and write it in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33-Nahum :). As a result, they will be able to obey Him wholeheartedly. Thus He will have fellowship with them continually in His dwelling on Zion.

The teaching that this psalm contains for Old Testament believers has its counterpart for us New Testament believers in the first epistle of John. We are called children of God because we are born of God. Because we are born of God, we possess His nature. His nature is light and love (1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:81 John 4:16). The evidence that we possess God’s nature is shown by obedience, which is doing righteousness, and loving God and the brethren (1 John 2:3-2 Samuel :). Those who are characterized by this are in God’s presence and live in fellowship with Him. This remains true forever.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.