The 15th psalm is one I have preached, taught in classes, etc. It is a straightforward psalm that tells us how to abide (live) with God. The point David makes in verse one is asking who shall be in God’s presence or enjoy fellowship with God. The rest of the psalm answers this question.
Another interesting point is that Psalm 15 is similar to Psalm 14. As we continue to read, we will see that Psalm 24 borrows some phrases from here, just like Psalm 53 and Psalm 14 are worded similarly. The difference is that Psalm 24 only uses a small piece of Psalm 15, but Psalm 53 repeats Psalm 14 word-for-word.
In the text, we see David’s main question asked in verse 1. It is the same question asked two ways: “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?” and “Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” Zion (God’s dwelling) is compared to the tabernacle (tent) or a high hill in this verse. When we look back in the Old Testament, we see the Tabernacle was where God spoke and met (communed) with His people (Ex. 29:42-43, 33:8-9). This is where God’s glory was seen (Ex. 40:34-35). Thus, it is fitting to ask such a question. Please note David did not have the literal tabernacle in mind. We know this based on the rest of the psalm. Again, who can be in God’s presence, ultimately? Imagine being a Jew 3000 years ago and getting to sing this song that spelled out who it is!
Someone who (v. 2-5):
- Walks uprightly or blamelessly. This word would remind the Hebrews of the spotless animal sacrifice they were to offer. He lives a life of integrity, just as John taught (I Jn. 2:6).
- Works righteousness. This was what Peter told Cornelius to do as well (Acts 10:35).
- Speaks the truth “in his heart.” This shows the sincerity of the person. He doesn’t speak the truth only when convenient for him to do so. He is an honest person (Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9)!
- Does not backbite. This is a natural contrast with the last phrase about speaking the truth!
- Does not do evil. This is a demand throughout Scripture. We are not to do evil to people even when they first did evil to us (Rom. 12:19; Matt. 7:12, 5:39-45).
- Does not take a reproach against his neighbor. From this, we see we are not to “discredit” or say evil things against our neighbors. “Who is my neighbor?” Do you remember?
- Rejects the vile person. The righteous man has the right attitude toward evil people. This is not speaking about hatred of the person but a rejection of the deeds of the evil person. One in fellowship with God does not praise evil but rejects it, just like Jesus did (Heb. 1:9)!
- Honors those who fear the Lord. This statement stands as a natural contrast with the last phrase. Since a righteous man rejects the vile person’s ways, he accepts those who fear the Lord! He is in fellowship with everyone who is in fellowship with God (II Jn. 9-11; I Jn. 1:7).
- Swears to his own hurt. This means this person makes a promise and stands by it when it is right. This is especially true when we consider the things we have promised God (Ecc. 5:1-6)! When I made a vow to be a Christian, this means I will be a Christian and follow the Lord regardless of what others say!
- Does not put out his money to usury. This is a little difficult for 21st-century people to understand. Under the Old Testament, God forbade His people from charging interest on debts to anyone but foreigners (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37; Deut. 23:19-20; Neh. 5; etc.). Thus, a righteous man would not charge interest on debts to his countrymen. A modern application would be not to be oppressive to people or not take advantage of people when they are in a weakened circumstance, financially or otherwise.
- Does not take a bribe. Staying with the theme of “money” and how to use it properly, righteous people do not take bribes! Judas would be an example of someone who did not live Psalm 15:5 (Matt. 26:15)!
Doing these things means we will not be moved (shaken), just as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-28! When we look to the New Testament, we see obedience to God emphasized similarly. If I am going to please God, I need to do what He says (Heb. 5:9), be motivated in the right way (I Cor. 13:4-8; Jn. 13:34-35), and treat others correctly (Matt. 7:12). Just as in Old Testament days, it is possible to be in fellowship with God today! Let’s make this our daily goal to “walk in the light” (I Jn. 1:7)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10) get much attention from us because they are noted as doing something without God’s authority. I intend to write about this truth, but the first thing I want us to notice is that sin ruins everything it touches (Ecc. 9:18b)! Leviticus 10 teaches us this loud and clear!
As we read Leviticus 8-10, we see these chapters recording events happening on the same day – the “inauguration day” of the Tabernacle and the worship of God. On the same day that we see God’s beautiful plan in action, we also see things ruined when Nadab and Abihu sinned and “offered strange (foreign) fire before the Lord” (Lev. 10:1). Their act resulted in God killing them for their disobedience. How ironic that on the day in which God sent down fire to light the altar (Lev. 9:24), He then sent down fire to stop men from violating His command (Lev. 10:2).
Of course, this fire stopped them dead (Lev. 10:2)! Now, a father of four has had his children reduced by 50%! On the day intended to be dedicated to God and His worship, Aaron has to watch the bodies of his boys carried out of the camp (Lev. 10:4-5)! Yet, he can have no part in this, nor tell his boys goodbye (Lev. 10:6-7)! What a tragedy! What suffering! Yes, sin ruins everything!
How these things could have been avoided if these men had acted in a way pleasing to God and not when God had been silent. Their sin left a “dark cloud” over the events of the day and certainly hurt a loving father who no doubt had planned on working with his sons at the Tabernacle for many years!
It is no different today. When men yield to their lusts and sin, it will result in death every time (Jas. 1:14-15)! Sin does not build; it destroys. It destroyed man’s relationship with God in the Garden (Gen. 3:6). It destroyed man’s relationship with his family (Gen. 4:1-11). Sin destroyed people’s minds (Gen. 6:5). It then destroyed the lives of millions in Genesis 6-8! Friends note the destructive power of sin, just in the first few chapters of the Bible! This destruction continues throughout Bible history, and just as it destroyed the lives and unity of a family in Leviticus 10, so also sin destroys in the very same way today (Rom. 6:23)!
Since this is true, what is your view of sin? Is there any wonder why God’s people from Old and New Testament days preached a message of repentance? Repent of your sins or perish (Lk. 13:3, 5). God has commanded all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Now we know why! Turning back to God and following in the footsteps of Christ is the only thing that will save us from destruction! If the sons of Aaron had listened to God, they would have been spared an instant death! Just think of what you will avoid if you will repent of your sins today and obey the Lord (Heb. 5:9). Don’t continue down the path that leads to destruction. Instead, repent and walk in the path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
When we read through the book of Leviticus, we see God mandating what is necessary to do in the various sacrifices and offerings that are brought to Him. He is exact in the method of sacrifice, who is to do it, etc. He not only discusses these things but also talks about what was to be done with the entrails, skin, dung, and other aspects of the animals that people tend to forget when reading about sacrifices. As we noted in an earlier study, since we have fewer people familiar with what it takes to process an animal so that the meat is suitable for eating, fewer think about what happens to the parts of the animals that are not eaten!
God in His wisdom made provisions for every part of these animals. When we read such passages as Leviticus 4:11-12, 8:17, 9:11, and 16:27-28, we see God commanding the priests to take the skin, the entrails, the dung, and remove them outside of the city to be burned. This is repeated in Numbers 19:1-10 and other places.
Why was this important to God to specify that the bull’s head, the skin, the entrails, dung, etc., was to be taken and burned? Indeed, we can comment upon a spiritual truth. No doubt, these actions foreshadowed the time described by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 13:11-13. Just as the sacrifice was taken outside the city walls, so also Jesus was taken, and killed outside the walls of Jerusalem (Mk. 15:20-24; Jn. 19:17-18)!
Might I suggest that this command also helped them in a physical way? Remember that these people did not know about communicable diseases, microbes, viruses, and other things we are aware of today. They had no understanding about how diseases might be spread! For centuries, many who had been wounded in war died excruciating deaths, not from their wounds, but from the gangrene, blood poisoning and other problems that crept up from the lack of hygiene in the surgery tents on the battlefields and in the hospitals.
Have we ever considered the fact that God was providing a way by which men might be safe from disease? This came not only in the destruction of the animal’s parts that carried disease but also in the various washings (Ex. 29:17, 30:20-21, 40:12; Lev. 11:25-40; Lev. 13-15; Num. 19:7-10)? What about the statement that, in some instances, men are “unclean” for a day? With certain skin diseases, they were considered unclean for a week, etc. This form of “quarantine” allowed the sick time to bathe and time to change clothes. If the disease demanded a longer quarantine time, then this permitted the person to recover and not expose family members, the tribe, etc., to the same illness!
Consider the fact that God forbade the people from drinking water that had first touched a dead carcass (Lev. 11:36). Might we venture a guess as to why God said don’t drink that water? Yes, I believe they (and we) could make a spiritual application to this, but might there also have been a physical, bodily reason why God wouldn’t want people drinking water that had first touched a dead thing?
In Leviticus 13:44-55, we see laws concerning the leprous people. Notice that they had to cry “Unclean” as people approached them. Why? Again, notice God expected them to cover their upper lips. Why cover the lips? Is it not for the same reason we teach our children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze? God went so far in this text as to say if the leprosy was on their clothes, then burn their clothes! Why do this? I think we understand now what God was doing.
God’s rules are not arbitrary. Though men might not always understand the purpose when it is spoken, there is reason and logic for God saying what He has said. These few examples bear this out. In a time when men thought nothing of diseases and spread them to others, God knew about them and caused His people to make provisions so that they might be healthy in spirit and also in body!
Once we understand this truth, look into the New Testament and think about the various rules concerning marriage (Matt. 19:4-6; Heb. 13:4), drinking (I Pet. 4:3-4), obedience to parents (Eph. 6:1-4), and numerous other statements of God. In light of what we have learned, we can know that God’s commands, His rules, are not just random thoughts. They have true meaning and purpose that allows us to not only prepare for the life to come but also allows us to enjoy life now!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Jeremiah is well-known for being “the weeping prophet.” Passages such as Jeremiah 4:19, 9:1, 13:16-17, and 14:17 make it clear that this description was well-earned. Make no mistake; his crying was not because he was some wimpy, weak character. He was not crying for fear, or some selfish reason, or because he was ashamed. Instead, he wept over the sins of the people of Israel. Similarly, we see Jesus doing this when He was on earth. In fact, He was referred to as the “man of sorrows” (Isa. 53:3; Matt. 26:37; Luke 19:41; John 11:35).
Jeremiah wept over the sins of the people. I suggest that the language he uses shows he thought himself unable to cry a sufficient amount over the sins committed in his land. In Jeremiah 9:1, it is written, “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”
Compare Jeremiah’s attitude toward sin with the “majority’s” attitude. Let me also challenge you to compare how the brethren act toward sin today with how Jeremiah acted toward sin in his day. Jeremiah wanted to cry and wished his eyes could be a “fountain” to cry over the sins committed by God’s people continually. He understood that sin was not a joke or a game. Sin is not a myth or something made up to scare children into behaving. Sin is real, and it is deadly (Jas. 1:15)! The passage that teaches us that “Fools make a mock at sin” (Prov. 14:9) is still true!
Why did Jeremiah weep over the people’s sin? All one has to do is look into Scripture and see how God describes sin to know why it is a cause for crying. Below are four descriptions. God describes sin as:
- An indelible stain (Isa. 1:18)
- A heavy weight (Heb. 12:1)
- A trespass (Eph. 2:1)
- Putrifying sores (Isa. 1:6)
How could this not make us cry if we saw someone in this condition physically (stained, wounded, filled with sores, etc.)? Though we cannot see the spiritual effects of sin, when God looks upon us, He sees it! We see the effects of sin when we see the physical results. When we see the drug addict and the wino, when we see the person who has STDs or suffering from the torture of having killed a baby through abortion, we see the effects of sin in people’s lives. When we see the person who is racked with guilt because he has stolen from others or has been abusive to a child or spouse, we see someone suffering with the consequences of sin. Our jails are filled with those who broke man’s law, but if we look closely, many have also broken God’s law!
I say this not with arrogance, but in the spirit of Jeremiah – how we might wish our heads were waters and our eyes were a fountain of tears to be able to weep over what we see in our generation in this country! Oh that we might weep over the sins committed by brethren at times! We have Christians that ought to know better, but they still commit sins before God. Let us remember that sin is as deadly for the Christian as for the non-Christian (Ezek. 18:20; Jas. 1:15). It is not a game or a joke and will lead us to Hell finally if we do not repent. Is that not another reason that tears might flow? Let them flow for the ones who seem determined to go to Hell and will not make a change (Matt. 7:13)!
God stands ready and willing to accept those who will come to Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; II Pet 3:9; Rev. 22:14). Who will do it? Should not this fact motivate us to go and find those who are lost and bring them to the Lord before it is too late? Let us be encouraged to find them! Let our tears not cause us to quit, but through tears, let us be motivated with an urgency to tell lost souls about the Lord before it is too late!
Jeremiah teaches us that there is no shame in weeping when we are weeping over the right things!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
One of the saddest verses, next to Jeremiah 8:20, is the three questions asked in Jeremiah 8:22. The Lord asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?” I struggled with what was being asked until I came to understand that these were rhetorical questions. Interestingly, Jeremiah 8:22 is written entirely differently in the NET. There, we read, “There is still medicinal ointment available in Gilead! There is still a physician there! Why then have my dear people not been restored to health?” These translators chose to forego the ambiguity of the rhetorical questions and simply state the facts. Whether or not we agree with such actions is a discussion for another time. The point is that God was emphasizing to the people (yet again) that their transgressions could be healed if they would be willing to change. This was done by pointing out a physical truth to make a spiritual point.
Using physical examples to make a spiritual point was how Jesus taught the majority of His time on earth (Matt. 13:34-35). His teachings are called “parables,” but in Jeremiah, this was not a parable but instead a rhetorical question to open the eyes of the people. Is there no balm in Gilead? “Balm” was used for medicinal purposes, and Gilead, and this region, was known for having an abundant supply. “Is there no physician there?” Again, in Gilead, there would be doctors in abundance ready to apply the balm to the hurting. Since a lack of balm and a lack of doctors is not the problem, then why are His people not recovered?
The reason they had not been recovered is the same reason someone might not recover physically even if there is “balm in Gilead.” What is this reason? In order to be healed physically, those people needed to apply the balm to the affected area! If one refuses the medicine, do not be surprised if this person does not recover from the illness! In like manner, if Israel (and us by application) refuses to listen and apply God’s teaching, then they will never recover from the harm of sin and will die in that condition! Remember, they have already told Jeremiah “no” in 6:16, and it does not look like they will change anytime soon. Therefore, when Babylon comes to conquer, when multitudes die, when people are enslaved, and when the land is ravaged, it is not because the people did not have “balm.” It is not that they had no one to heal (physician), it is because they refused to accept God’s “medicine”!
I hope that the application to Jeremiah 8:22 is apparent to us (Rom. 15:4). Though Babylon is not coming to destroy, we still face something greater than a physical threat, for we are facing a judgment day (Heb. 9:27; Acts 17:30-31; II Cor. 5:10; Ecc. 12:13-14). Sadly, there is a real possibility of people dying in their sins (Jn. 8:24; Jas. 1:14-15; II Thess. 1:6-9). If we die in our sins, who can we blame for this besides ourselves (Ezek. 18:20; Col. 3:25)? Is there no “balm,” the gospel, that tells us what to do to be saved from our sins (Rom. 1:16; II Tim. 3:6-17)? Is there not a physician, a “great Physician” who is ready to heal our spiritual ills (Matt. 9:12, 11:28-30)? Then why is there a world of people not yet saved? I think I know at least part of the reason is that those who are aware of the Physician’s prescription (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38) do not want to accept it! I say again, if we are sick and refuse to accept the medicine the doctor prescribes, then do not be surprised if you do not recover from the illness! While I know people can cite dozens of cases where people “wore out” their physical sickness with time and determination, there is no one who will “wear out” the spiritual sickness called “sin”! There is only one cure for it, and if you refuse the cure, nothing else will cure you!
In the long ago, God, through Jeremiah, called out to his people to tell them that there is a way to be healed if they would accept, and they said “no”! These people are dead and gone and have died with their decisions. You and I are still alive, though! What will you do? What will be your response to the Lord and His plan for healing (saving) you from your spiritual ills? Choose wisely (Heb. 3:7-8; II Cor. 6:2)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs