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Psalm 15: A Life in Harmony with Worship

One of the greatest hinderances to the gospel is the professing Christian who mistreats his fellowman. Psalm 15 describes a life that is in harmony with the worship of God.

O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
 Who shall dwell on your holy hill? (v. 1) 

To the Israelites, these questions would call to mind the journey up the ascent to Jerusalem where God’s sanctuary was located. That was the center of Israel’s formal worship. They had to make preparations and acquire provisions before entering God’s house. However, one might flawlessly execute the ritual without having acceptably worshipped. 

The Worshipper’s Character

God’s primary concern is for the character of the worshipper, which is not something one can put on as he approaches the holy city. That character is summarized as:

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
 and speaks truth in his heart; (v. 2) 

These words convey both an outward and inward integrity. For as we are told elsewhere, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). The psalmist gives specific examples that fall into three categories: personal relationships, associations, and financial affairs.

integrity in personal relationshipswho does not slander with his tongue
 and does no evil to his neighbor,
 nor takes up a reproach against his friend; (v. 3) 
integrity in associationsin whose eyes a vile person is despised,
 but who honors those who fear the LORD; (v. 4)
integrity in financial affairswho swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
 and does not take a bribe against the innocent. (vv. 4-5) 

David says this kind of worshipper is immovable: “He who does these things shall never be moved” (v. 5). That indicates a strong, settled conviction about the right way to live which can weather the trials and temptations of life. Such convictions are only possible if one relies on God’s revealed truth to establish them. 

“According to the care which every man takes to practice righteousness and equity toward his neighbor, so does he actually show that he fears God.”

John Calvin

A Misconception

It is wrong to take these character qualities as a list of requirements to earn God’s favor for the following reasons: 

  • This psalm is in the context of an already established covenant relationship with God.
  • The list is only a representation of all of the ethical requirements found in the Law.
  • No honest person can claim to have met this standard perfectly.
  • Israel’s central annual worship event, Passover, celebrated God sparing them from judgment by means of the blood of the sacrifice, not by means of their own righteousness.
  • Finally, only Jesus perfectly met the demands of the Law. In addition, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Passover lamb.

A Life of Worship

What we do see described is a life in harmony with the worship of God. “According to the care which every man takes to practice righteousness and equity toward his neighbor, so does he actually show that he fears God (John Calvin).

Thus, Jesus made it very clear that one cannot approach God in worship while at the same time harboring a sinful attitude toward his fellowman (Matt. 5:23-24). Paul exhorts husbands to honor their wives and show them understanding “so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). James says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jas. 1:27). So worship of God encompasses a life of love for others.

As a matter of fact, for those who believe the gospel, the transforming grace of Jesus Christ produces this love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). He set us the greatest example of love (John 15:13), commands us to follow it (John 13:34), and empowers us to do so (Romans 5:5; John 17:26). 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Cor. 13:14

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