Ps 15:1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
The Talmud records the saying of one of the rabbis that ‘Moses gave Israel 613 commandments, David reduced them to 10 Psa 15, Micah to three, (Mic 6:8) Isaiah to 2, (Isa 56:1) but Habakkuk 2:4 to one: the righteous shall live by his faith.’
A great question, which may be asked out of (a) idle curiosity; (b) alarm over the failings of others; (c) despair over one’s own qualifications; (d) sincere enquiry; (e) faith in the perfect man, Jesus Christ.
The would-be worshiper is perhaps expecting a list of ritual requirements in answer to his question, but instead the reply searches the conscience (Kidner).
Indeed, this is the greatest question in the world, and only God can answer it.
The answer is given in terms of behaviour. Note, although good works are not the ground of our salvation, they are the indispensible accompaniments of it. See Jas 2:17. What we are within, is seen in our outward behaviour.
Ps 15:2 he whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart
Here, in vv2-5, is the portrait of the person who may dwell in God’s presence:
1. His character: true, v2
2. His words: restrained, v3
3. His allegiance: clear-cut, v4
4. His dealings: honourable, vv4c, 5
5. His place: assured, v5c.
There are, in fact ten requirements in total, and they are all of an ethical, rather than a formal or liturgical, nature.
Two great pillars of biblical ethics are justice and truth (not, e.g., happiness or self-fulfilment).
Ps 15:3 and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man,
Few sins are more destructive than those of the tongue, Ps 34:11-13; Mt 12:36-37.
Slander – The idea is of spreading malicious gossip or scandal. Cf. Lev 19:16.
Slur – the underlying word means ‘to spy’, and the rumour-monger, like a spy, observes the faults and defects of others, and then spreads them in a way which casts them in a false light.
Ps 15:4 who despises a vile man but honours those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
‘We must be as honest in paying respect as in paying our bills. Honour to whom honour is due. To all good men we owe a debt of honour, and we have no right to hand over what is their due to vile persons who happen to be in high places. When base men are in office, it is our duty to respect the office; but we cannot so violate our consciences as to do otherwise than contemn the men; and on the other hand, when true saints are in poverty and distress, we must sympathize with their afflictions and honour the men none the less. We may honour the roughest cabinet for the sake of the jewels, but we must not prize false gems because of their setting. A sinner in a gold chain and silken robes is no more to be compared with a saint in rags than a rush light in a silver candlestick with the sun behind a cloud.’ (Spurgeon)
Notice the typical Hebraic black and white. Honour should be given where it is due. It is a Christian duty to reprove ungodliness. ‘Paul teaches us, Eph 5:11, that it is a species of fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness when we do not expose them.’ (Calvin)
Ps 15:5 who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
On extortion and bribery, see Mt 25:27. ‘Money at interest is condemned in the Bible, not in general (cf. Deut 23:20 Mt 25:27) but in the context of trading on a brother’s misfortunes, as a comparison between Deut 23:19 aand Le 25:35-38 makes clear. The latter passage equally forbids selling him food at a profit. In the family, one carried the weak members; outside it the law allowed discretion, while forbidding extortion and encoruaging generasity.’ (cf. Ex 23:9 Le 19:33f) (Kidner)
Note the stability of the child of God.
‘This psalm is as fire for the gold, and as a furnace for silver. Can we endure its testing power?’ (Spurgeon)