Thursday, September 10, 2015

What Kind of Person Do I need to Become to Abide in the LORD?: Learning to Pray Psalm 15

In the previous blog posts,  we’ve explore two psalms of trust (Pss 11 and 14) and two laments (Pss 12–13). All four psalms explored the struggle of living for the LORD in a world that does not acknowledge God’s kingdom. God’s people can face oppression and injustice by persons who live by their own rules rather than embodying justice and righteousness.

These psalms testify to an unwavering trust in the LORD. Despite hardships, these prayers witness to a dogged and rich faith that can guide us on our journey as God’s missional people. Yet there is a subtle temptation when the wicked appear to prevail in the present. The temptation is lower our standards, maybe just a little, to perhaps lessen the cost of a life of faithfulness. Enter Psalm 15. Psalm 15 instructs God’s people in the habits of those committed to holy living in an unholy world.
Psalm 15 served originally as a liturgy for entering into the temple in Jerusalem. It connects love for God with love for neighbor. If the journey of faith ends in the praise and adoration of the LORD and his victory (Pss 146–150), this psalm reminds us of the importance of personal holiness and character as we live in anticipation of God’s future abundance.

Psalm 15 unpacks as a general question (verse 1) followed by a detailed answer (verses 2–5b). Verse 5b concludes with powerful promise.

Verse 1 opens the psalm by asking the LORD for the characteristics of a person who may enter into God’s presence. Psalm 15 does not set admissions requirements for a relationship with God. It is describing the lifestyle of a person who have received God’s grace. Psalm 15 invites us to answer a similar question today: What kind of person do I need to become in light of the grace and kindness that I’ve received from God in Jesus Christ?

The LORD’s answer to this question may seem surprising as it lacks any religious acts. For example, there are no references to sabbath or sacrifices. Instead, verses 2–5a focus on how we relate and treat others. In other words, it suggests that our love for God must manifest in our relationships with all people and especially with God’s people. Observe that there are ten lines of instruction in these verses. This is intentional. Just as there are Ten Commandments from Sinai (Exod 20:2–17 cf. Deut 5:6–21), Psalm 15 offers ten lines of ethical instruction to guide the godly in their walk with the

These verses focus on practicing faithfulness in our relationships with others. This is the meaning of a blameless walk and right action. This involves speaking truthfully and not using our speech to injure others (2b–3). The holy life also means honoring God’s people rather than giving special privileges to those who reject God (4a). People also honor God by keeping their word (4b). The blameless life also is exemplified by blessing the poor with no interest loans and refusing bribes against someone who is innocent. Note that some of these practices may be costly in terms of money, loss of prestige in the eyes of the world, or crossing someone powerful.

God calls us to live this way counter-culturally as an abiding witness to God’s mission and kingdom. Verse 5b promises that faithfulness has its reward: security for all eternity.

What kind of person does this psalm invite you to become?

What is the most difficult challenging part of this psalm for you to live out?

What role does faithful service to your neighbors and to the poor play in your life as a follower of Jesus?

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