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
God chose Jeremiah to be His prophet at a young age. He would go on to speak God’s word for the next forty years! When he began this work. God told Jeremiah not to use his age as an excuse for not doing the work (Jer. 1:7). God then said something that had great significance. He told Jeremiah, “whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak” and “I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:7, 9). The NET Bible says it slightly different, using the words, “say whatever I tell you” and “I will most assuredly give you the words you are to speak for me.” In this same chapter, God would again tell Jeremiah that He was giving him the words to say when He declared, “I will utter my judgments” and “speak unto them all that I command thee” (Jer. 1:16-17). The NET renders verse 17 as, “Go and tell these people everything I instruct you to say.”
In either version, the point is abundantly clear. When the prophets of God spoke, they were speaking via verbal inspiration. Some are under the impression that when God inspired the writers of the Old and New Testaments, He only inspired a thought or a theme, and then the writers were to do their best in interpreting and expressing God’s teaching in their own words. A reading of Jeremiah shows us that this is not the case. Please note that God did not tell Jeremiah He would put the “thought in his head.” Instead, the “word” was going to be in His “mouth” (Jer. 1:9)! He was expected to say what God commanded (Jer. 1:17)!
This Biblical description matches the definition of “inspiration,” because in II Timothy 3:16-17, “inspiration of God” comes from the original term, “theopneustos.” This term means “divinely breathed.” Some have shortened this to “God-breathed,” which is the same idea. For God to “breathe out” His will is similar to us breathing out our wills when we speak. Yes, God actually spoke to Jeremiah and the other Biblical writers and prophets, and they, in turn, told the people what God had said (ex: Jer. 1:11-14, 2:1-2; etc.).
Jesus said something similar when He first sent the apostles on what has been called the “limited commission.” Jesus told those men not to worry about what they might say when confronted by others. He told them, “take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matt. 10:19-20). Jesus also respected the words from the Father, for He stated that while on earth, He was speaking what God wanted to be told to the world (Jn. 12:49-50). Paul declared, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (I Cor. 14:37).
When we read the Bible, we are not reading the words of men who had random thoughts concerning God’s teaching that needed to be interpreted and set forth to us in the best way they could. Instead, these words in the Bible are the inspired (God-breathed) words from the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:20-21). These words were given so we might know the mind of God (I Cor. 2:9-11), believe the truth, and obey it (Heb. 5:9)! This was God’s intention when He gave Jeremiah and every other inspired person the words to speak to a lost and dying world.
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Interruptions are frustrating, aren’t they? Interruptions might slow us down or even stop us from doing what we’d planned to do. Someone has said that we ought not to be so frustrated by interruptions. Perhaps it is that this is the time God wants us to slow down and reconsider our plans. I’m not sure we could say that’s true for every interruption, but perhaps this observation has some merit on occasions when God’s providence is at work.
Have we ever noticed that Jesus was interrupted a lot in His work? One such interruption came in Mark 5:21-43. After Jesus returned from Gadara, on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, He was met by a great crowd. Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, fought the people to ask Christ to heal his daughter, who was very sick (v. 23). As Jesus traveled to Jairus’ house, a lady who’d been stricken with illness for 12 years came to Him and touched the hem of his garment for healing (v. 28-29).
Her act stopped Jesus. It interrupted the trip to Jairus’ house in that moment. Her action wasn’t unknown to Jesus. He is God and knows all (Jn. 2:25, 6:64; Acts 15:18; Heb. 4:13). His question to her wasn’t unlike the question God asked in the Garden (Gen. 3:9). His question caused her to stop and she confessed to what she had done when she interrupted Him (Mk. 5:33).
Notice Christ’s response to this lady. “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace and be whole of thy plague” (Mk. 5:34). This interruption did more than just stop Jesus. It allowed Him to do some vital teaching. In this account, He taught the apostles, and teaches us!
What does Christ teach us in Mark 5? He teaches us that the faith that saves isn’t merely a mental assent. If this woman had stood out of the way and merely stated her belief to others that Jesus could heal her, it would’ve done nothing for her. She had to act! James teaches us the same truth when he declares, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24) and “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26)!
When we study this short but powerful interruption, we see a woman who definitely believed that Jesus is the Son of God. This is why she decided to go and meet Jesus. She fought the crowd (Mk. 5:27). She reached for Christ’s garment (Mk. 5:28), trusting that even to touch His garment meant healing. Later, she’d confess what she did (Mk. 5:33). Therefore, after she’d believed and acted on this faith by going to where Jesus was, fighting the crowds, and touching His garment, she then confessed her faith to Christ. In response, Jesus commended her saying, “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mk. 5:34).
Yes, friends, the faith that saves is the faith that obeys! It motivates us to act when we might not have acted otherwise. This is Bible faith! Do you have Bible faith? If not, why not? Without this, we can’t please God (Heb. 11:6). How do we get such faith? Faith comes by hearing God’s word (Rom. 10:17), and then this faith grows by being exercised (Heb. 11; Rom. 16:1-15)! What kind of faith do you have? Is it living or dead (Jas. 2:26)? Are we acting on our faith as the woman did in Mark 5, or are we too afraid?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In our previous study, we studied about Christ calling Peter, Andrew, James, and John to be fishers of men. One other event connected with this calling is found in Mark 1:20 (and Matt. 4:22). Mark makes a point of saying that Peter and Andrew “forsook their nets,” and when James and John left, they left their father in the boat. Matthew’s account varies slightly by saying they left “their ship and their father.” Either way, the point is that things were left behind to follow Christ. In these four men’s cases, they had to leave their family (father) and their business (ship and nets) to follow the Lord and be “fishers of men.”
Jesus didn’t take such decisions for granted. Later, He told the disciples, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mk. 10:29-30).
Christ never promised the disciples a life of ease when He called for them. Nor did He promise a life free from sacrifice! I think Mark 1:18-20 states this lesson quite succinctly. Matthew 8:19-22 and Luke 9:59-62 teach a similar truth when three people approach the Lord about following Him, and each person is told essentially to choose Him over anyone and anything else. Yes, following the Lord requires sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2)! He never promised a life of ease on earth. He promised life eternal (Matt. 25:46) and rest one day (Heb. 4:9) if we’ve been faithful now!
Many have sacrificed for the Lord through the years. I think of Elijah, Elisha, Job, and many others in the Old Testament. Some have lost their lives in order to remain faithful to God. This is recorded for us in Scripture. Even our “secular” history records the lives of those who risked life and limb that the gospel might spread far and wide. While many lost their lives, still others lost their livelihoods, and some lost families in order to live according to God’s will. I can think of many preachers of the gospel whose sacrifices have allowed me to preach where I am today, and I’m thankful.
The older I get, the more I understand, though, that anything truly worth having will cost something. I’ve also seen that (with a few exceptions) we don’t usually appreciate the things given to us without some condition. Usually, the things for which we haven’t struggled and earned are the first things we give away or sell. If that item breaks or is stolen, there’s little emotion involved. I hasten to add I know there are exceptions to this, for example, an inheritance or something similar, but usually, what I’m saying is true. Watch people and see if I’m not right!
I know it sounds trite to say, “There is no free lunch,” but that is a true statement. For you to get something “free” means someone else bought it. That includes the “free gift” of our salvation (Rom. 5:15-16, 6:23)! Someone else paid a price that we might have the opportunity to be saved (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Matt. 20:28, 26:28; Heb. 5:8-9; etc.). Don’t get me wrong, there are conditions attached to this “free gift,” and rightfully so! We can’t enjoy the blessings of God’s gift unless we believe in Christ (Jn. 8:24), repent of our sins (Lk. 13:3), confess Christ as God’s Son (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). We must have some “skin in the game,” and we do when we make that commitment to accept the Lord’s conditions and follow Him for the rest of our days (I Cor. 15:58; Rev. 2:10b; etc.). We must put the Lord first (Matt. 6:33) and not be “conformed” but be “transformed” (Rom. 12:2), that we might grow closer to the Lord every day.
Four apostles in this text left family and business to follow Christ and serve Him for the rest of their days (Mk. 1:18-20). What’ve we left behind? Does the gospel mean anything to you? Does the cross mean anything? Have we been fooled into thinking that being a Christian requires little more than warming a padded pew and devoting my time for an hour or so on Sunday? Have we left anything behind willingly? If not, why not? Those who think that being a Christian is nothing or that there isn’t true sacrifice involved in being a Christian have never read the Book! The gospel demands much of us. Ask Peter, Andrew, James, and John what it cost them! However, the reward will surely be worth it (Rom. 8:18).
Are you ready to leave this world behind to gain Heaven?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Gaius, the recipient of III John, had many great qualities. One quality is revealed in John’s observation: “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers” (III Jn. 5). The “strangers” in this text are similar to the “strangers” Peter wrote to in his first epistle (I Pet. 1:1). These people were Christians unknown to the face of Peter. Similarly, John said Gaius was faithful in treating the Christians who were “strangers” well.
The blessings of being in Christ are innumerable. We could make a detailed study of all the benefits God provides His children, and we would spend months and even years covering these things in their entirety (Eph. 1:3; II Pet. 1:3; etc.). At the same time, we see innumerable blessings on earth when we consider the blessings our brethren provide. III John 5 reveals the blessings we have in our brethren.
Read III John 5-8, and learn of the generosity of Gaius toward his brethren. His acts of charity (love, benevolence, v. 6) were well-known. He had provided in such a way that these folks went forth “for his name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles” (v. 7). In other words, they had no reason to ask for money or goods from others, because Gaius provided in such a generous way that they had all needs met. Who were these people? Notice in verse seven, it was those who went forth for “his name’s sake,” i.e., Christ’s name! These were men preaching the gospel far and wide, and when they left “for his name’s sake” from Gaius’ house, they went with their needs provided that they might get to the next place! Gaius’ actions remind me of what Christ said in Matthew 10:40-42.
John concludes that since Gaius did his job, “we ought to receive such” (v. 8). In other words, “we” have a job to do in receiving these people since Gaius did his part so that they could travel. I wish I knew more about this work and the generosity shown, but this is enough to make Gaius stand out as a man who wanted the gospel preached and willingly sacrificed to make it happen. Such a blessing!
Is Gaius still around? I say “yes” without a doubt. I have been the recipient of the brethren’s generosity on several occasions. I remember moving to a place, and when I went to get the electricity turned on in my house, I learned that “Gaius” had paid the “hookup” fee usually charged new customers. There was a time when another “Gaius” gave me traveling money when I held four back-to-back meetings. “Gaius” was present in another state of the Union to give me a brand new pair of boots, and also provide presents for my young boys just because he loved the gospel preached and saw this as something he could do to give a “cup of cold water” to another. “Gaius” has come through on several occasions. I remember one who played the part of “Gaius” and provided some support when she saw a preacher and his family in need. I speak in general terms because these people with the “Gaius” spirit didn’t want to be recognized! The most important thing is that they are known to God!
It is not exclusively the person offering financial support that serves in the role of “Gaius” (though this is the context of III John 5-8). I remember some brethren who cared for me in a time when my life was literally in their hands! I have not forgotten their kindness and generosity, and I know God hasn’t forgotten, either!
I could go on with sweet memories of modern-day “Gaius’.” I imagine that if I asked other men to write of their experiences, we would all rejoice at the multitudes of examples of dear brethren. John made mention of Gaius’ sacrifice and the blessing he was to others for a few reasons. First, he wrote this by inspiration, which means the Holy Spirit wanted these things revealed (Jn. 14-16; II Pet. 1:21-22). Second, these verses are written to encourage Gaius. His sacrifice was not forgotten nor unappreciated. In fact, it was the opposite (Prov. 27:2)! Third, Gaius’ example was other brethren’s motivation to do the same (III Jn. 8)! Read III John 8 carefully in this context and see that John says because Gaius did what he did, “we” have work to do on our end!
Just as Gaius was a blessing in the first century, we also can take up the mantle and be a blessing to others. Remember, we who are Christians (Mk. 16:16) are family (Rom. 8:16-17). We are one body (Eph. 4:4), and need to help encourage each other (Rom. 14:19; I Thess. 5:11). This encouragement comes in moral support and prayers, without a doubt. There are also times when physical needs must be provided (Jas. 2:15-18). Do we have the “Jerusalem spirit” when it comes to generosity (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-35)? I pray so! We live in some hard and strange times, and we need men to preach and spread the gospel far and wide because only the gospel will save (Rom. 1:16)! Getting our priorities straight is what will help us through the times ahead (Matt. 6:33). We also need folks like Gaius, Phoebe, Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, Barnabas, Timothy, Mary (there were several), Luke, Apphia, Archippus, Philemon, etc., who are ready to do the Lord’s will, support the preaching in all ways they can, and help get the gospel to the lost.
Gaius was a blessing to brethren and strangers in the first century. Who are we blessing in the twenty-first?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs