When David wrote the opening words to Psalm 15, “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?” - most people would assume that his question amounts to this: “Lord, how can I get in?” “What is the rite of passage?” Or, as we find in the New Testament, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The question could indeed have to do with permission of entry. But I don’t think so. I think the question has more to do with ability to remain. How can I stay there? Or, as its reads, “who may abide..?”
David had found fellowship with God. He had experienced what he says in Psalm 32:1,2 “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity.” He had not earned his way in, or worked himself into position. He was blessed with the gift of a right relationship with God through faith in His promises.
But now, having visited this fellowship, how does he remain there, since the temptations of life and flesh constantly tempt us to wander away? David now lays out 6 couplets which provide safeguards for abiding, for dwelling in fellowship with God.
- walk and work (v. 2). The one precedes the other. Practice walking with God, and only then let the proper works of love and service flow from that walk.
- watch your language (vv. 2b,3a). Do not indulge yourself in telling your own self lies. Self-deception is a huge problem. And then, don’t talk bad about others.
- Be the good neighbor that Jesus himself has been to us (3b), and then be the kind of friend that defends in public and tells the truth in private (3c).
- Know the difference between good and evil (4ab), and don’t allow those lines to become blurry. Make sure that the influential persons in your life are “those who fear the Lord,” and understand that “a reprobate,” though perhaps prosperous or popular, will only cause you trouble.
- Keep your promises (4c), even when it’s not convenient. Our promises are heard by humans, but witnessed by God.
- Don’t let money run your life (vv. 5ab), either by using it to leverage others, or allowing it to leverage you. You cannot dwell with God and serve and be mastered by money.
Finally, in the last phrase (5c), the psalm ends with the promise that, by observing these things, we will avoid the paths that lead us away from continued fellowship with God. We will not be shaken.