Psalm 15:5b Be and Do

Verse 5b  “He who does these things will never be shaken”.

We’ve come to the conclusion of the Psalm, the prayer.  It’s a call to action.  It’s a promise.  It’s a challenge.  The prayer has been a fathoming of the Sovereign, holy God whose core descriptor is His absolute existence. He is; and we have become aware of it.  A high view and fear of Him is the fitting response.  We have benefited from His attributes: become blameless by Christ’s Blamelessness, are enabled to speak truth and love others by His Truth and Love, embrace integrity through His Wholeness.  Now it is time to “go and do likewise”.  Enough root-bound pondering; it is time to move into action or “be shaken”.

Soren Kierkegaard observes, “Christianity understands what it is to act and what it is to keep love incessantly occupied in action”.  It takes faith to act, to be motivated by our beliefs to behave on the basis of those beliefs.  Everything we understand God to be, we must be and do to others.  He is Love – we must love others.  He is Just – we must be just to others.  He forgives – we must forgive others.  He is not asking us to be automatons:  every day, every moment, we have the choice to be and do as He is and does.  But that choice is the fulcrum on which our faith rests.  The only alternative is to “be shaken”.

Shakenness is the condition of grave danger to the soul.  It is quicksand.  It is being “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6).  It is a building whose foundation is sand when a great wind arises.  This is not a threat by some great cosmic dictator.  This is the reality of the universe of cause and effect; if we know a thing needs doing, we must do it.

“God”, said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.”  This causality is seen in our inward prayer, and it is seen in our outward life of action.  This is Psalm 15.  Our communion with God is the energy behind our life of love, truth and integrity.  Let us embrace this causality with everything we are and have.  Let us be and do.

LORD, your holy hill is both far away and very near.
Yet, it is not the hill I want and need, after all, but only You.
High and lofty One, fill me with Your Spirit.
Help me see you in and behind everything I am and do.
Dwell with me that I may dwell with You.
 

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Psalm 15: 4b, 5a Integrity

Psalm 15:4b,5a  “…who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.””.

 

Title page of the irst edition of the Bay Psal...

Title page of the irst edition of the Bay Psalm Book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This phrase is about integrity.  My dictionary says that integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles” and/or “the state of being whole and undivided”.  The former are the daily battles, the latter is the war.  I see them as battles and a war because I know myself so well. My natural bent is so self-focused.  It’s a real battle some days to be whole and principled. Each example, (oath-keeping, money-lending, and bribe-resisting) describes moral principles that are put to the test, usually when I am at my weakest.  I’m fine keeping my promises when the sun is shining.  But what about the “even when it hurts” times?  Can I still love and forgive when that person hurt me so badly? Am I so willing to lend my resources when there is nothing in it for me, not even a little publicity?  Do I resist the temptation to treat certain others with a little more equality than everyone else because it benefits me in some way?

 

Integrity really only describes God, the completely whole one.  Yet, unless I am described by this trait, says the Psalmist, I cannot hope to dwell in the LORD’s sanctuary, to live on His holy hill. It’s an unhappy quandary.  Unlike many, I just cannot see myself as good enough to meet this high standard.  Do you? Have we really the integrity to keep every promise, lend every last penny, and refuse every temptation to favouritism?

 

Once again, we must rely on the Source of all good to transpose into our souls the resources needed to meet God’s standards.  He who makes us blameless by His Blamelessness, enables us to speak truth because He is Truth and enables us to love our neighbours because He is Love, does something about our need for integrity.

 

In another Psalm, David asks (on behalf of us), “give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name”  (Psalm 86:11).  God’s answer?  He says, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone…” (Ezekiel 11:19).  There it is: Integrity for the asking.  It’s not for the faint of heart, but it will put wholeness back into a heart fractured and hardened by selfishness.  God ‘s soft-heartedness (often referred to as ‘compassion’) is transposed into our hearts as we allow Him to work His great task of re-creation.

 

LORD, great:
Oath-keeper,
Resource-lender,
Lover of all.
None of these am I, and so,
In desperate sense of need I come
To Your great throne, true sanctuary, holy hill
On bended knees.
Restore my heart, soul, mind and strength
To wholly be as Yours,
My fractured, stoney, hardened heart
Made new.
So off and out I go, now whole,
To keep my oaths,
Lend what I have,
Love everyone
Through You.

 

 

Psalm 15:4 Fear God — Shun Evil

 Verse 4: “who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD”

 We come to a screeching halt.   If we read the first half of this verse with any sense of the overall picture of Christ as our role model for neighbour-love, we are brought to an abrupt stop.  This segment of the Psalm is decidedly the most difficult, on the surface, to apprehend.  Despise another creature made in the image of God?  Hate one’s neighbor?  Surely these are not Christian thoughts. Our scrutiny for treasure from this segment of the Psalm comes to a complete standstill; we must seek God’s face, presence and wisdom if we are to proceed.

Jesus, God incarnate (Word made flesh!), modeled this oxymoron; he commanded, “love your enemies” while also instructing “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.”  How can this be?

Perhaps the answer lies in the segment of our Psalm that follows the ‘despise a vile man’ part: “those who fear the LORD”.  Fear the LORD.  The fear of God is the essential orientation of a person who is in right relationship with God.  We accept His sovereignty (the right to rule), His justice (the right to set standards), and His power (the wherewithal to act); we align our own attitudes and actions to please Him, in response to His great love for us.  When all this is in order, perhaps the vile man we must despise the most is our own depraved self, gone awry in arrogant and selfish autonomy.  Perhaps only by despising this self can we reject the lie of Satan that tells us we can be god.  Perhaps our awe filled fear of God is what is required to truly love ourselves and others in the new way—God’s way.

In the book of Job, God is overheard describing his servant Job as “a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  He summarizes, “There is no one on earth like him;” –high praise from an all-knowing God.

I’m thinking the fear of God is something I need to prioritize in my life.  I need to relentlessly pursue an ever-higher view of Him as I live my life in the grass roots of this earth.  I must shun all that tempts me to consider anything less than complete submission to God and His holy ways.  This is where the life of His Spirit in me is so essential.  Becoming a sanctuary-dweller is no small thing. 

 

Psalm 15:2b,3 Truth-Speaking

Verse 2b, 3: “who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow man.”

We now come to the heart of the issue: how must our relationship with God affect our relationship with others? We have discovered our need to reverence God as supremely holy; We have embraced the amnesty provided by Christ, our redeemer. But what core transformation has occurred that translates into how we ‘live and move and have our being’? Is it enough to stay cloistered in our prayer closets in thankful adoration of the One who is holy and who has made us blameless before Him?

There is this not-so-little issue of truth-speaking.  Speaking the truth from our hearts is tied, it seems, to our invitation to dwell with God.  It is not just about God and me.  My ‘neighbour’ is included and is a necessary part of my relationship with God.  Jesus clearly explained that the greatest commandment to “Love the Lord your God” is bound closely with “lov(ing) your neighbour”.

“Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between: man-God-man, that is, that God is the middle term.” (Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love).  So before I leave my morning time of prayer with God, I must once again ask God for the grace to love my neighbor this day. Then I must rise and go into my community—my family, my coworkers, drivers on the road with me, people who take advantage of me or irk me, all these my neighbours—and live the truth of God’s grace and love.

All-knowing God of Truth,
You have given me treasure
beyond my own understanding;
You have told me the truth of my condition
And of your solution;
You have loved me for my good;
Now you turn me outward
Toward my neighbour:
Family, friends, enemies,
All of these my neighbours.
May true thoughts of You be the source
Of every word I speak to others.
Truth.

 

Psalm 15:2

Verse 2: He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous

We asked of God, in verse one, who in the universe could ever dwell in His sanctuary; His awesome holiness, supremacy, and otherness in contrast to ours, delineates a vast gap between Him and us.

As we move into verse two, we seem to be no closer to bridging the gap.  Is there anyone whose walk is blameless, who could be considered righteous?  There is a sense of breathlessness as we observe and admit our own condition: no one in their right mind would consider themselves blameless or righteous. We fear the gavel in the judge’s hand hangs suspended in the air, about to fall in just proclamation: none is holy enough.  Any blameless? Righteous? Not even close.

Old gavel and court minutes displayed at the M...

Old gavel and court minutes displayed at the Minnesota Judicial Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is prayer’s first response to desiring relationship with a holy God.  Here we are reminded to fall daily before the throne of God, admitting the reality of our need for spiritual amnesty.  This admission of desperate need brings to the court’s dock the beloved Son of God.  The sash around His waist reads ‘Righteous and Blameless One’.  His testimony, spoken before the great eternal court, results in the gavel’s pronunciation: “This one is blameless!”  Looking up we see many robes, like the Son’s, blazing white and being brought to those of us who feared the worst. We stand transfixed as we are draped in the precious fabric and read the writing on each sash, ‘righteous and blameless one’. Amazing mystery: We are dressed and ready to dwell in the sanctuary of God.

Blameless and Righteous,
Soul’s Father, Pure Spirit, Holy One;
Your mercy and love
for each soul who owns blame
cracks the doorway impossibly wide.
The unthinkable happens;
We, hopelessly stubborn,
proud, selfish, unrighteous,
now find ourselves robed like the Son.
May our walk be like yours,
As your indwelling life lifts each footfall to land
Somehow blameless like You, Righteous One.

Psalm 15:1

Verse 1:  “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?”    

This is a prayer; God invoked, named, and questioned.  This is the vowel-less name YHWH the ancients used of the Awesome One who described Himself simply as the “I AM”.  The Supreme One is so far beyond our reckoning that we must come to Him in simple awe-filled wonder of His being.  He is, and we have become aware of it.  Breathe Him, sense Him, live Him.

 The question, at first seems to be rhetorical: Who in the universe could ever dwell in God’s sanctuary?  Who could live on His holy hill?  We must come to see His majesty as so complete that we, like the awestruck apostle Peter (Luke 5:8), despair of our own depravity in contrast to His holiness.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8,9)

This is the beginning of prayer.  This is the setting, the matrix, the milieu in which our mindset must be formed. This is where adoration of God embarks. Thoughts of self must be put into perspective: Yes, we are amazing creatures, capable of many wonders, not the least of which is our ability to think and will and be autonomous.  But even in our independence we must admit we are not the ones in ultimate authority here.  We are incapable of the holiness of God.  We cannot ascend to the heights of His existence. Here, at the threshold of wonder and despair we must bow before Him.  Yes, He is our Creator; but here we must choose to call Him “LORD” or be forever lost in the deception that we have our own holy hill, and that is enough.

Holy One

Creator of All

 Open my eyes, soften my heart

To embrace the great truth of your Being.

This morning I call You ‘LORD’,

Ancient, holy name.

I bow.

 

Meditations on Psalm 15: Introduction

Prayer is nothing more or less than openness to God.  It flows through our being in many forms: thoughts of Him, songs of and to Him, actions inspired by Him, and, of course, words spoken to Him.  I am aware of my need to be more open to prayer, more exposed to God, windows open to the fresh air of His presence.  This blog is part of my quest.  I am keenly interested in others’ thoughts, discoveries, and surprises in their God-focused journey.

Man reading Psalms at the Western Wall. Jerusa...

Man reading Psalms at the Western Wall. Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine, March 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the next series of postings I will be exploring the ‘blog post’ of the Psalmist, David, ancient writer/poet/historical figure of the nation of Israel some three millennia ago.  He expresses some thought-provoking comments regarding God, sources of great wisdom for those who will listen.  The one labeled ‘Psalm 15’ is titled ‘The man who abides with God’, and is a treasure worth exploring.  I thought I would work through this Psalm with some thoughts of my own, and would love to hear your thoughts too.  May God grant us His truth and wisdom as we explore His Word.