O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. Psalm 15:1-2
The word for abide means “sojourn.” On a journey in David’s day you would set up camp, and sleep in a tent. At times, you would invite someone into your tent to fellowship with them.
Before Solomon, there was no temple, but the tabernacle; a tent in which was the presence of God, signified by the Ark of the Covenant. It was set up on a hill, as was the temple built on a hill, the Temple Mount. To enter either, you needed to be holy.
Theologian John Calvin viewed David’s words in Psalm 15 in this way: “The meaning of his discourse, to express it in a few words, is this, that those only have access to God who are his genuine servants, and who live a holy life”
Here we are given a simple list of qualifications to fellowship with God, to be invited into his tent. There is a simple test in this Psalm. If you cannot answer affirmatively to each characteristic, that area or areas requires work. This is not a test of your salvation but of your sanctification.
Walking in integrity is first, but this is almost overarching. When someone attempts to climb a ladder whose rungs consist of ungodly behaviors, there are none. There is no evidence on which to indict. We want to maintain short accounts with God, and one with integrity clears them each moment, like breathing out carbon dioxide and breathing in clean air.
It is not hard to maintain your integrity when you are wholeheartedly involved in righteous works. Gainful employment in God’s work keeps us honest. Idle minds and hands leave us open to straying into sin.
Truth telling is a habit learned from abiding with and in the truth. The “sum of Your word is truth” David tells us elsewhere (Psalm 119:160). It becomes both natural and easier to tell the truth than to concoct a self-serving justification. Use of, “but I was just,” is a key indicator of an oncoming lie.
He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a reprobate is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; he swears to his own hurt and does not change. Psalm 15:3-4
Most certainly, we are not to connive to do evil against our neighbor, friend, or anybody for that matter. It starts with slander and ends with subterfuge.
This word “slander” describes a searching out process by walking, i.e. spying. We slander when we circle around someone to notice and report to another your assessment of that person, most always speculating on, but not knowing, that person’s motive. Don’t be fooled. This is an antagonistic action against your brother. In doing so “you slander your own mother.” Psalm 50:20
If allowed to progress, this seed sown with a few words of innuendo can become biting sarcasm, scorn, reviling, a fued, or malicious vendetta, even between friends. This war of words surely does not square with a life of integrity. Consequently, your invitation into God’s tent is in serious jeopardy.
Controlling what we say, and the purification of the well from which our words flow (the heart, Proverbs 4:23), is no easy task. James laments about the unbridled tongue, “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” James 3:8
A man or woman on God’s invitation list rejects and condemns that which God considers a reproach to his character. If you find yourself disgusted with sin, yours and the world’s, this is where you should be. More importantly, you are now in a much better position to understand his grace and mercy. As they say, “there, but by the grace of God go I!”
In one area, though, a godly person can be harsh with words, by calling a reprobate a reprobate! The New Living Translation describes a reprobate or vile person as a “flagrant sinner.” As opposed to prejudging motives, to call someone out for what is clearly wrong in the eyes of God is to possess the disposition of God. John the Baptist called the leaders of his day a “brood of vipers.” Luke 3:7 On the other hand, when you see a “faithful follower” of Jesus, you weigh them down with honor, as medals weigh down a decorated soldier’s uniform.
Someone welcomed inside God’s tent is certainly the person who keeps their word despite the circumstances. Here it is described anciently, as “swearing to your own hurt.” You immediately think of Jacob, who loved Rachel so much, he served Laban faithfully for seven years to win her hand. “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her. Genesis 29:20 To lend some additional perspective, she was “beautiful of form and face” and he had “not yet gone into her” during that time.
But the obscure story of Jephthah in Judges illustrates this trait best. To win out over the sons of Ammon, he vowed to the Lord to offer up (sacrifice) the first thing that he encountered when he returned home victorious. Out walks his one and only daughter to greet him “with bells on,” who would thereafter spend all her days a virgin. He said this knowing he gave his word to God, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.” Judges 11:35
He does not put out his money at interest, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15:5
The Old Testament was explicit in its prohibition against lending to a fellow Israelite with interest. They were not to act as a creditor to their brother, but were to be generous. “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.” Exodus 22:25 A key word in the study of finance is leverage. You will hear that term a lot. It means to gain an advantage or a position of strength. Tax collectors were like this in Jesus’ day and they were despised. To lend with interest was to enslave your brother, as the Egyptians did God’s people. God wants us to be gracious as he is to us. If a man can lend a brother money with no strings, meaning he has really resolved to give it to him, he has the heart of God, and if a man repays the sum, he too has the heart of God. Both are welcome in God’s tent.
Bottom line, a just man cannot be bribed. This is simply another form of leverage applied to gain advantage over the innocent. Almighty God looks down on the person who is handed a brown bag of cash to see what they will do. He is very pleased when it is pushed away. A person of integrity cannot be plied away from what is right. He or she cannot be shaken nor will they stumble.
Paul quotes David in Romans 3:10, saying, “there are none righteous, no not one.” He is correct. But in reality, he failed to look in God’s tent. That is where the righteous hang out.