How can man be with God? Who can come before His presence? We tend to ignore the importance of that question. We live in a world in which many people deny the transcendent. Functionally, many people live as if there is no God. So why would they wonder how they can be in his presence? Yet, this is the most fundamental question. Who can come before the presence of God? As we look at another Psalm of David, we are going to see David meditate on just this question.
v. 1 - The Psalm begins with two parallel questions. "O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?" The question presupposes something foundational—not every human being will be accepted before God in his glorious presence. The idea of the tent David mentions draws our attention to the tabernacle that was used during the wilderness years. The tabernacle served as the home of the very presence of God in the midst of the encamped people. Later, Solomon would be a temple, place on that holy hill. The tabernacle/temple dynamic in the Old Testament serves as an important tool in teaching us about God and his presence.
First, God is distinct and holy. The innermost part of the temple was the holy of holies. It was the most sacred space. Only the high priest could enter in to make a sacrifice. He would only enter once a year after extensive purification and preparation. To enter into that place was gloriously terrifying. God is holy and untouchable.
Second, We are defiled and unclean. Because of our sin, we cannot simply waltz into the presence of God as we would stroll about our homes. God provided strict rules of who was allowed to come into his presence. The reason for this is because we are sinners. Our rebellion causes separation between us and God.
So as we look at this in the canon of Scripture, “who shall dwell on your holy hill?”—the answer is no human being. We have all fallen short. We have all sinned. Yet, we know that God makes a way. He cleanses us from our sin, not through the sacrifice of bulls and goats, but through the final sacrifice for all, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was through the death of the Lord Jesus that the thick curtain that separated the holy of holies was ripped in two. For those who come clothed in the righteousness of Jesus by faith, they may enter into the very presence of God.
So this psalm does not intended to show us how to be saved, as that is not its purpose. If we were to read it in that way we would severely misunderstand its meaning and wrongly conclude that all it takes is to be a good person. Yet, that is not what David is trying to teach us. David knew that he is not blameless. The man was a murderer and adulterer. Just read David's psalm of confession in psalm 51.
So what is the purpose of this psalm? This psalm was most likely sung by the people of Israel as they would gather at the temple for worship. It was a song of personal reflection and heart examination. Am I coming to God with the ideal heart for worship?
As Christians, we gather into worship on Sunday morning in a trivial and lackadaisical manner. We enter into worship with little self reflection and little confession. We truly don't prepare our hearts for worship. Unfortunately churches have become in practice like the theater. A group of people socializing and taking there seats getting ready to watch the show. Yet, Psalm 15 instructs us that when we come to worship we must examine ourselves.
v. 2-5b - David then begins to give a list of inner characteristics that describe a true worshiper. The inner and personal holiness of a Christian is vital for true worship. Yes, we are not saved by our works. Yet, Christ Jesus didn't save us to leave us as sinners. Rather, as Christians we embark on a journey of sanctification. Though we cannot reach perfection in this life, the end goal is that we will one day worship God in complete purity and personal holiness. As we worship God today, we must seek to worship him in the inner purity of our heart and life. Where there is sin we must confess it and repent. We must seek to become, by the Spirit's power, true worshipers of the Lord.
So what sort of character does David describe? Well, a true worshiper walks blamelessly and does what is right. He speaks truth in his heart. What a beautiful combination! A true worshiper of God loves the truth and sound doctrine, yet lives it out in his daily life as he walks blamelessly.
The true worshiper also speaks the truth. He does not slander or speak evil to his neighbor. His relationships with other people are upright. He doesn't tear people down and he doesn't use people for his own selfish gain. A true worshiper possesses a reputation for honesty by those around him.
A true worshiper also despises evil. He has a love for those who fear and love the Lord. He honors those who fear God while despising those who are vile. This person keeps his promises and he does not back out of them though it might end up being personally costly to him. In the words of Jesus, his yes is yes and his no is no. He generously treats all people fairly, not even charging interest to others. He is just and refuses to take a bribe.
The person David describes is morally upright, solid in character, loving in personal relationships, and known for his personal integrity. This is the kind of person that can come and truly worship the Lord. As we read these sort of character traits they give us pause. Am I such a man or woman? In Christ, am I becoming someone who walks blamelessly? Who speaks truth? Who is generous and loves justice? The answer, if we are honest, is this: we still have a long ways to go. By God's grace may he form us into this type of worshiper as he conforms us to the image of his perfect son Jesus Christ.
As we read this list of inner character traits, only Jesus alone could fulfill them. If these are the requirements of entering in to the tent of God's presence, than he alone could enter in without fear. Yet, by the substitutionary death of Jesus, God gives us Jesus’ perfect record of righteousness. Now, by the Spirit's work, God is transforming us into who we now are in Christ.
v. 5b - The last sentence tells us the sort of confidence this sort of worshiper can have. "He who does these things shall never be moved." For those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and who daily seek personal holiness, we can have great confidence. We will not be shaken and we will not be moved. Through the love of Christ and the gracious work of the preserving and sanctifying work of the holy Spirit one day we will see God face to face in all his glory.
As you come into worship this upcoming Sunday, remember it is a foretaste of heavenly realities. Examine your heart. Come prepared for worship. Seek holiness and justice in your life, and know that it is only through Jesus that you shall dwell on that holy hill in worship.
- Thank God for Jesus and for his grace in granting you access to the Father.
- Ask the Lord to reveal to you hidden sin. Examine yourself.
- Ask the Lord to help you seek personal holiness and to grow in the image of Jesus Christ
- Thank God that through Jesus you can come before God in confidence.