A reconstruction of the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Answering the Question of “Who Shall Live on God’s Holy Hill?” From Psalm 15

Today’s post continues our studies from the Psalms. I am exploring them in order of length, starting with the shortest. Thus far we have considered Psalms 117, 131, 133, 134, and 123. For 134, I also wrote a reflection from MacLaren’s writings. Despite their short lengths, I have found value in each text, and I hope that you have too. We now come to Psalm 15, which is the first to be 5 verses in length. It is attributed to King David, and begins by asking some very important questions. 

Yahweh, who shall dwell in your sanctuary? Who shall live on your holy hill?

Psalm 15:1

David wisely addresses his questions to the One who can give him the answers. He speaks to Yahweh, and refers to places that are part of His domain. These include God’s sanctuary and holy hill. When I first read this, I immediately thought of Jerusalem and the seven hills on which it sits. Concerning His sanctuary, I think of the Temple, and the Most Holy Place in it, that are found on Mount Zion.

The use of the words “sanctuary” and “holy hill” are appropriate for David’s question. Only certain people could dwell, or sojourn, in God’s sanctuary. Not everyone had communion with God. All of this is in the background as we consider this psalm.

After the first verse, David begins providing the answers to his two questions.

Who Shall Live on God’s Holy Hill?

In verses 2 through 5, we learn that those who have communion with Him are associated with three main areas of behavior. These include,

  • External actions,
  • The heart, 
  • and the mouth.

Please take a note of these as we read the rest of the psalm,

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right, and speaks truth in his heart; 3 he who doesn’t slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his friend, nor casts slurs against his fellow man; 4 in whose eyes a vile man is despised, but who honors those who fear Yahweh; he who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and doesn’t change; 5 he who doesn’t lend out his money for usury, nor take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be shaken.

Psalm 15:2-5

Godly External Actions

This need to do godly actions is seen immediately in verse 2. The Bible often speaks of people walking in certain ways. In this case, David refers to he who walks blamelessly and does what is right. He isn’t presenting an exhaustive list of everything that is blameless. This walking includes all sorts of behaviors that are godly and right. In verse 3 this general nature is found again. Those who live with God do not do evil to his or her friend.

The inclusion of the word “friend” reminds us that we are to have relationships with others. We are to learn about others, and let them know about ourselves too. I am not the best at this, but at the very least all of us can strive to do only good to our friends. We shouldn’t treat them poorly or manipulate them for our own gain. Having a friend just to use them is not right. It is something we should avoid.

Near the end of the psalm we find actions related to money. The Old Testament had many commands about not lending money for usury, or interest. The Jewish people were forbidden from taking interest from their brethren. Complimentary to this is the refusal to take a bribe against the innocent. From this we observe that a blameless person will do his or her best not to give in to temptation related to financial gain. Even if people from other nations could earn income from changing interest from their neighbors, Jews were not permitted to do so.

The above reminds us that the actions we do are very important, Even when some things have a negative impact on us financially, obeying the commands of God are necessary. We need to remain ethical in all our dealings with others. Doing good instead of evil is paramount, and resisting our own greedy desires may help us in that.

The Heart

None of these actions are possible with selfish desires in our hearts, but they are for those who are seeking God regularly and wish to obey Him. One interesting aspect about the matters of the heart are that they are often only noticeable to ourselves and God. Sometimes others can see the state of our hearts by our actions and words though. We need to remember that as we go through this section.

In this psalm, the first time the heart is mentioned is in verse 2. Those who will live on God’s holy hill speak truth in his or her heart. This may fit well with the notion of not manipulating others as was said earlier. When I read of speaking truth in one’s heart, it makes me think of the importance of not telling lies in our minds just to make us feel better. In a sense, another application of this may be reflecting on God’s truths throughout the day.

The heart, or mind, is also mentioned later in the text. In verse 4, David speaks of how to view others. Both the Old and New Testaments encourage us to have healthy perspectives on both the godly and the wicked. This may not be very comfortable for us. However, there is no denying that In this text, the man who dwells in God’s sanctuary despises a vile person.

As we develop a heart for the things of God, wickness will upset us more and more.

Such a notion is found not only here, but also in the example of Lot. In one of the New Testament letters, the nephew of Abraham is described as a righteous man who “…was very distressed by the lustful life of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7). I point this out to demonstrate that it is not wrong to be upset by sin in the world. Becoming disturbed by the ungodly actions of others is normal when one’s heart is trained by the Word of God. 

Hopefully though, we can also appreciate those who fear God. Honoring those who obey the Lord is obviously good. May we be encouraged to do that by the words of this psalm.

The Mouth

Speaking of words, our text also mentions expectations concerning the mouth for those who live with Him. The first two are encouragement to not speak against others. The beginning of verse 3 says that “he who doesn’t slander with his tongue.” The same verse ends with not casting slurs against his fellow man. These statements are fitting, for all of verse 3 involves our interactions with others. The same verse refers to not doing evil to a friend, which is something we explored already.

As I reflect on the above, I notice that most of what is related to the tongue is against doing evil. The godly don’t commit slander. He or she doesn’t cast slurs. Even though it’s tempting to insult someone, this part of the psalm presents a strong teaching against doing so.

As we come close to the end of our study of this psalm, we see one additional statement related to the mouth. Verse 4 mentions, “he who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and doesn’t change.”

This hits home for me.

Have you ever made a promise only to break it days, months, or years later? I unfortunately have. What grips me about the above is “even when it hurts.” When an oath is made, do we really know the ramifications of what we are promising?

I know I haven’t, at times. However, this portion of the text reminds us that our words matter. If we are truly a child of God, we need to pay attention to our words, and follow through with them even when doing so hurts.

For me, the most encouraging thing about this is that we know that God is always honest with what He says and does. Essentially, God is faithful to us and what He says is always truthful. If He promises salvation to us through His Son, we can believe Him completely. If He says that those who live on His holy hill apply principles such as the above, then we have every reason to believe Him.

Because of these truths, we can stand firm on the Word of God and never be shaken. Just as the end of the psalm reads, 

…He who does these things shall never be shaken.

Psalm 15:5

Image Used

The Tabernacle in the Wilderness by jdblack from Pixabay.