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“This psalm teaches the necessity of moral purity as a condition of the Divine protection. It first propounds the question who shall be admitted to God’s household, and the privileges of its inmates (Psalms 15:1). This is answered positively (Psalms 15:2), and negatively (Psalms 15:3); then positively again (Psalms 15:4), and negatively (Psalms 15:5). The last clause of the last verse winds up by declaring, that the character just described shall experience the protection tacitly referred to in the first verse.”—Alexander.
THE PSALM OF LIFE
I. The question which the Psalmist proposes.
“Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle?” &c. (Psalms 15:1). “Who may hope for acceptance as a worshipper of Jehovah!”—French. “Tabernacle and hill together signify the earthly residence of God. It is a figure for intimate communion with Jehovah, and participation of His favour.”—Alexander.
Who shall enjoy Thy communion, Thy friendship, Thy protection? Who shall commune with Thee on earth? Who shall dwell with Thee in heaven?
This is the grand question of life. Who shall enjoy the Divine favour and protection, now and for ever? surely this is the question of first and supreme importance! It is a question which should be urged before God with a personal interest and anxiety. Not “are there many that be saved?” but, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
II. The comprehensive answer which is given to the great question.
Psalms 15:2-19.15.5. Admission to the Divine presence and eternal joy does not turn:
(1.) On what is national. It is not the privilege of Jew or Gentile, as such.
(2.) On what is physical. We do not enter heaven on the ground of affliction. Those before the throne came out of great tribulation, but that was not the reason of their glorification.
(3.) On what is social. Dives is not rejected because he is rich; Lazarus is not accepted because he is poor.
(4.) On what is educational. Some of our philosophers have lately ventured on the theory, that if men achieve a certain mental development, they will become immortal; but lacking this culture, they are doomed to extinction at death. The grand test is not educational.
(5.) On what is ecclesiastical. The whole point of this psalm is directed against this idea. Horsley heads the psalm: “True godliness described as distinct from the ritual.” “With regard to that part of the hierarchical theory which makes membership in the visible Church identical, for all practical purposes, with membership in the Church invisible, it is tacitly refuted in places without number. The true citizen of Zion is “the man that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully; he shall receive the blessing from the Lord. This is the generation of them that seek Him.” There is an all-important distinction between the visible and invisible Church; the true Church and the professing Church, although they are so closely connected that the eye of man cannot draw a line of separation between them, are by no means coincident. “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Romans 2:28-45.2.29).”—Binnie. But
(6.) The whole question of our acceptance with God, and heirship of immortality, turns on character. Holiness is the grand requirement. “In the foregoing psalm David had lifted up his eyes to Zion, the hill of God, where the ark of His presence was. He was mindful of the holiness required of all who are admitted to its neighbourhood. How much more is this true of the heavenly Zion, to which David raises his eyes and heart from the earthly citadel.”—Wordsworth. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” The righteousness required by God is—
1. Perfect. “He that walketh uprightly.” i.e., perfectly (Psalms 15:2). “One who walks uprightness, i.e., one who makes uprightness his way, his mode of action.”—Delitzsch. The law of God requires perfection of spirit and life. God says to us all, as to Abram, “Walk thou before me, and be thou perfect.”
2. Practical. “Worketh righteousness.” “The piety delineated in the Psalter, although it soars to heaven and its life is hid in God, never omits the assiduous cultivation of the lowly duties of everyday morality. The Church has always been infested with a sort of people whose religion is all expended on the first table of the laws; who, along with a great show of contrition, and faith; and spiritual joy, and delight in God’s worship, are ill-natured in the domestic circle, censorious and unfriendly neighbours, unsafe men to deal with in business. The psalms do full justice to the perfect law of God in this matter. Whatever may be the quarter whence the antinomian perversion of the Gospel may derive its aliment, certainly it is not from the songs of Zion. What a fine portrait this 15th Psalm, for example, draws of the godly man! He loves God’s tabernacle and holy hill;—his heart is there. And when he goes out into the world, he does not leave his religion behind. He shows the influence of the fear of God in all he does. His tongue utters no malice. He is a man of his word. He will not make gain of his neighbour’s necessity; nor will he, for any consideration, oppose the cause of one whom he knows to be innocent. These are the true fruits of faith unfeigned. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”—Binnie. “Thus, in heart, in tongue, in actions, in his conduct as a member of society, he is alike free from reproach. Such is the figure of stainless honour drawn by the pen of a Jewish poet. Christian chivalry has not dreamed of a brighter. We have need often and seriously to ponder it. For it shows us that faith in God and spotless integrity may not be sundered; that religion does not veil or excuse petty dishonesties; that love to God is only then worthy the name when it is the life and bond of every social virtue. Each line is, as it were, a touchstone to which we should bring ourselves. To speak truth in the heart—to take up no reproach against a neighbour—would not the Christian man be perfect of whom this could be said?”—Perowne.
3. Spiritual, “Speaketh the truth in his heart” (Psalms 15:2). “The characterising of the outward walk and action is followed in Psalms 15:2, by the characterising of the inward nature.”—Delitzsch. “This speaking truth qualifies not merely what precedes, but the whole description, as of one who sincerely and internally, as well as outwardly, leads a blameless life by doing right and speaking truth.”—Alexander. Out of a true and spiritual heart spring these practical graces. It will not do to be merely moral, or only professedly religious. “God only admitteth such as are righteously religious, and religiously righteous.”—Trapp. We must show our faith by our works, and our works must be spiritualised by our faith. “Walk in the heaven of the promise, but in the earth of the law; that in respect of believing, this of obeying.”—Luther.
How impossible it is to realise this righteousness, so perfect, so profound, so universal, except by virtue of the grace and strength of Jesus Christ!
I. Its comprehensiveness (Psalms 15:2). “Walking,” the habitual course of life must be right. “Working,” all the action must be right. “Speaking,” all the conversation must be truth and uprightness. The true Christian seeks to be free from evil habits, evil acts, evil words. He is required here to be free from insincerity, censoriousness, pride, untruthfulness, covetousness, injustice. In Psalms 15:2, he is required to be blameless personally. In Psalms 15:3, he must be a good neighbour. In Psalms 15:4, a true friend. Standing faithfully to the meritorious. In Psalms 15:4-19.15.5, an honest merchant; he “that sweareth,” &c. A man of his word. A just merchant. “Usury.” Not taking advantage of any man. In Psalms 15:5, an upright magistrate. “Nor taketh reward,” &c. Christian morality covers the whole ground of character and life. Feet, hands, heart, tongue, eyes, influence, money, social rank and power, all are required by this psalm to be consecrated and pure.
II. Its loftiness. Coarse, gross sins are not referred to here. It is assumed that they must be laid aside. No fornicator, thief, drunkard, liar, murderer, shall enter the kingdom of God. This is taken as so evident, that such offences are not named. But the standard is a very exalted one. These various crimes in more subtle forms are seized upon and forbidden. We must not only be free from gross sins, but walk perfectly; not only abstain from falsehood, but speak the truth in our heart; not only abstain from calumny, but from repeating reflective reports; not only abstain from perjury, but cherish a high sensitiveness as to our promise; not only abstain from tyranny and pride, but cherish a deep humility; not only not injure others, but esteem them better than ourselves; not only not steal, but not take advantage of any one in the way of trade; not only not murder, but love our brother. All this, and much more than this, is taught in the various words and phrases of this psalm. Thus, in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 13:0.), the apostle does not speak of Christian love as preserving from gross vices, but, far beyond this, producing clusters of graces, rare, lofty, delicate, divine.
How much superior is the morality of the Gospel to mere good manners, to a mere natural amiability, to a commercial utilitarian morality!
III. Its inspiration (Psalms 15:1). “Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?” The recognition of God is its source and strength. In God we find the grand example of this holiness: from Him comes the strength by which we attain supernal goodness. A comprehensive, lofty morality, like that insisted upon in this psalm, is altogether beyond the reach of nature. It is only as we admire and love God, and thirst to be like Him, and seek a fitness for His eternal kingdom, that we are able to reach the full, deep, transcendant morality pictured in this psalm.
IV. Its recompense (Psalms 15:5). “He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” “He stands fast, being upheld by Jehovah, hidden in His fellowship; nothing from without, no misfortune, can cause his overthrow.”—Delitzsch.
THE LAW OF THE LIP
I. The nature of slander.
1. The origination of an evil report concerning our neighbours. “He that backbiteth with his tongue.”
2. The circulation of an evil report invented by others. “Nor taketh up a reproach.” The “calumniator takes up the lie, and circulates it.”—Speaker’s Com. “The verb seems strictly to denote the act of busy or officious tale-bearing.”—Alexander.
3. The listening to such a report. Giving it the sanction of our ear. The original may be translated “endureth;” implying that it is a sin to endure or tolerate tale-bearers. “The tale-bearer carrieth the devil in his tongue; the tale-bearer in his ear.”—Trapp. We are not “to do evil to our neighbour” in any wise.
II. The evil of slander. What mighty unhappiness it causeth!
1. It demoralises the slanderer.
2. It demoralises the person to whom the slander is related.
3. It wrongs the party slandered. “ ‘Show that man out!’ we should say of a drunkard; yet it is very questionable if his unmannerly behaviour will do us so much mischief as the tale-bearer’s insinuating story. ‘Call for a policeman!’ we say if we see a thief at his business; ought we to feel no indignation when we hear a gossip at her work? Mad dog! mad dog!! is a terrible hue and cry, but there are few curs whose bite is so dangerous as a busybody’s tongue. Fire! fire!! is an alarming note, but the tale-bearer’s tongue is set on fire of hell, and those who indulge it had better mend their manners, or they may find that there is fire in hell for unbridled tongues.”—Spurgeon.
III. The cure for slander. It is a most difficult thing to rule the tongue, and refrain from evil-speaking. There is a story told of an illiterate old monk named Pambos. Being unable to read, he came to some one to be taught a psalm. Having learnt the single verse, “I said I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue,” he went away, saying that was enough if it were practically acquired. When asked six months and again many years after, why he did not come to learn another verse, he answered that he had never been able truly to master this. What is the grand cure for all sins of the lip? He “speaketh the truth in his heart.” “It is not falsehood and deceit that he thinks and plans inwardly, but truth.”—Delitzsch. “Whose heart-converse is truthful;—who in that hidden council-chamber of the soul holds no parley with what is false.”—Kay. The heart must be changed, enlightened, exalted. Out of a pure fountain flows a pure stream.
“What! never speak one evil word,
Or rash, or idle, or unkind!
Oh, how shall I, most gracious Lord,
This mark of true perfection find!
“Forgive, and make my nature whole;
My inbred malady remove;
To perfect health restore my soul,—
To perfect holiness and love.”
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 15". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent