Psalm 15

It's been suggested that Psalm 15 is a teaching Psalm since it begins with two questions followed by answers (didactic). It may be. But I suspect David was asking God a question, because he sincerely needed answers, not because he was trying to teach.

Therefore the answers that arose in his heart thru the Holy Spirit are requirements from the almighty Himself. As you study these qualifications, if you're honest you must admit that no man/woman can possibly present these qualities without the help of God.

This brief psalm of just five verses may have been written during the advent of the ark's restoration to Israel and establishment of public worship in Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1-19).

Perhaps the questions are the by product of the Uzzah incident, when Uzzah touched the ark as it was being transported improperly on the back of a cart (2 Sam6:3-7; Num 4:5-15; 7:9).

The Uzzah incident has to do with worshipping God according to protocol established by Him. In other words, man/woman can not approach God in any broad manner they choose. God has set forth the narrow way in which He will accept us. And that narrow way is Christ Jesus.

Psalms 15:1-5 (KJV)
1 LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? 2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. 3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. 4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. 5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

The psalm opens with two questions addressed to Yahweh.

Paraphrased "Who can come into your presence? (both in a physical and spiritual sense)”

Behind the question one senses the psalmist’s huge respect and regard for the Lord. We share his sense of Yahweh’s majesty and of the holiness of his house, his service, and his attendants.

The Holiness of God here is reminiscent of Isaiah 6:1-8.

In Isaiah's day great kings ascended to their throne with a long flowing garment train. Little Kings had a short train. Big and powerful kings had a long train. Isaiah reports that God's train filled the temple. There was fabric everywhere! It’s critically important to see God properly: (2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

The above scripture indicates that we reflect the image we hold of God. In plain language; whomever, whatever we spend most of our time involved in, or with, or thinking about; that’s what we reflect.

The psalmist in obvious wonder and adoration of God and realizing how high and lifted up He is: Wonders how mere man can even exist in any proximity to Him?

The 1st qualification is that the manner of life is blameless: “who walks blamelessly.” This is the characteristic of the person; it is the description of his normal routine. The verb “walk,” means living life.

The key word is “blamelessly” (tamim, pronounced tah-meem). This Hebrew word means perfect, unimpaired, innocent, having integrity, complete, sound, even-tempered, and flawless (like the animals for the sacrifice that had to be without blemish.

The 2nd qualification found in verse (2) is “who is doing righteousness.” The word sedeq (pronounced tseh-deck) refers to what is morally and ethically right, or in short, what corresponds to the standard—and the standard is the Law of God.

The 3rd qualification is that the person is one “who speaks the truth from the heart.” In Hebrew this word “truth” (‘emet [eh-met]) is connected to the verb ‘aman (from which we get “amen”), meaning “to be firm, to support” and in derived verbal meanings, “faithful, sure, firmness” and “believe.”

Truth refers to what is reliable and dependable. In other words, it corresponds to reality. The kind of truth spoken from the heart (nepes [neh-fesh]).

This isn’t the normal word for “heart,” rather, it is often translated “soul” or better, the “whole person” (body and soul). The expression underscores the sincerity of the righteous who speak the truth with every fiber of their being. There is no guile, not hidden agenda, no hypocrisy.

The 4th qualification in verse three is that the righteous person does not slander. The text literally says this one does not “foot it” (the verb related to the word for foot), meaning this one does not go around slandering. To slander is bad enough, but to be actively spreading it abroad is worse.

The 5th qualifier of the one who may abide with the LORD is in verse 3b: this one “does not do evil to his/her friend.” The word “evil” (ra’ [rah]) is a little more precise than the English translation makes it sound.

Whatever harms life, causes pain to life, interferes with life, or destroys life is “evil.” The term refers more to the results of sin: misery, pain, affliction.

The 6th description in verse 3 is that the righteous person does not take up a reproach against his neighbor. The people were supposed to be good neighbors. They were to love their neighbors as themselves. Jesus makes clear in the story of the Good Samaritan, that the neighbor was a anyone in need that you met.

Here the qualification of the righteous is that no reproach will be taken up against the neighbor. A reproach is a taunt, a scorn, a cutting criticism and personal attack. The righteous will not incite this kind of scorn, nor indulge in it. The task is to promote and praise the neighbor.

Verse four provides us with the 7th qualification. “In his eyes a vile person is despised; but he honors those who fear Yahweh.” This has to do with perception and reception.

The righteous person does not receive those who are worthless and vile. Stars or heroes or famous people, are treated with contempt. They may be talented and trained, but if they are vile and base, they are not to be received as honorable. On the other hand a true believer, one who fears and worships God, is worthy of praise and support.

The 8th qualification in verse four is that the righteous may swear but will not go back on their oath, even if it is painful to keep. Here we are dealing with faithfulness, keeping one’s word, even if painful.

For example, a man may take an oath (“As the LORD lives, I will be there”) and promise to come over and help someone do a task on the weekend, but then on the weekend has another, more pleasing opportunity arise.

The righteous will keep the promise, even if it means he suffers loss of some kind. To swear an oath like this and not keep it would be taking the name of the LORD in vain. The righteous takes an oath, and changes not—his word is good. The New Testament believer does not use a lot of oaths, especially since Jesus criticized the wrongful use of them. But the word of the believer must be good, and whatever is promised must be performed.

Verse five: The 9th qualification deals with lending money. The righteous person does not put out his money with interest (literally, “with a bite in it”). If there are those who need financial help, those who are able should help them, and not take further advantage of them by charging interest. The righteous don’t take such advantage of each other.

The 10th qualification says the righteous person does not take a bribe (see 1 Kings 15:19; Isa. 45:13). Justice must be preserved in the land; to take a bribe against the innocent would be to pervert justice. No one can do that and expect to be accepted into the sanctuary to abide with the righteous Judge of the whole earth.

The idea of taking a bribe can be extended to any perversion of justice for unjust gain. Showing partiality to the rich in the sanctuary (Malachi and James address this) is the same principle, especially if one has something to gain by doing this.

Those who live this way, down to these kinds of details, will not only be able to abide with the LORD but also will never be moved. The word moved is mut (moot), can mean “shaken, moved, overthrown, deteriorated.” The verb refers to the spiritual security of the devout, not a mere physical description. The righteous will not be shaken as they abide in His presence.

In the New Covenant this same standard is laid out for us: “Be perfect!”
In many ways Psalm 15 is saying what Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love” (John 15:10).

Adapted from “Qualifications for Worship” By Allen Ross , Th.D., Ph.D.