LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,And works righteousness,And speaks the truth in his heart.
He who does not backbite with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbour,
Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honours those who fear the LORD;
He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.
He who does not put out his money at usury,Nor does he take out a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Analysis added 15th May 2011
“LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?…”
This Psalm, this prayer is a quest for fellowship with the living God – abiding in His tabernaclle, dwelling in His holy hill. And throughout the Psalm, we find the means of attaining this fellowship
1. Walking uprightly, working righteousness. If we want to know God, we have to live lives of consistent integrity (walking uprightly), we have to make sure that we do the right thing (working righteousness)
“…speaks the truth in his heart.” The Bible teaches in many places that our hearts are the sources of all our actions, whether good or bad. So when we cultivate a truthful attitude, we have to cultivate it from our hearts. It is not good enough to simply say the right thing when we are nurturing malice or rage or mischief within our hearts.
“He who does not backbite with his tongue”. I remember one incident many years ago when I unleashed my tongue and freely spoke behind someone’s back about what I thought about her, and her carryings on… this is what the Bible calls backbiting. Incidentally, I felt so bad after this that I found it hard to face her and be friendly afterwards. Even though the things I had said were factually correct, it became so clear to me that this was totally the wrong way to behave… and God does not like it either.
“Nor does evil to his neighbour…” The Bible teaches here and elsewhere that we are to live in peace with people around us. Jesus in the parable of “The Good Samaritan” teaches that “our neighbour” is anyone we come into contact with. So here as a Christian, a condition of abiding with God, in His tabernacle, on His holy hill is to do no evil to anyone we would come into contact with, or any fellow human being.
“Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend…”This can also be translated: “Nor does he pursue a legitimate complaint against his friend” or “nor does he seek to retaliate against his friend”. As above, with the backbiting incident. Also, I believe that we are to forgive our friends, rather than seek to retaliate against them. Purity of heart is essential to interacting with the pure God, and when we harbour revenge in our hearts, our purity is compromised.
“In whose eyes a vile person is despised”. OK, as a Christian this is difficult, as we are not really meant to despise anyone. This is because no-one, absolutely no-one – even the vilest of people – is beyond the saving power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we are to hold His offer of eternal life up to absolutely anyone who would accept it. Furthermore, Paul teaches that in a way we are all vile, we are all wicked, we all deserve God’s punishment.
However, it is still fair to say that as Christians we are to despise vileness itself, and abhor all evil – as Christians usually put it, we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner -(but please remember, we are all sinners – except my future husband – that’s a joke! )
…”but he honours those who fear the LORD”… this still stands in the light of Christian understanding because by honouring people who fear God we are honouring God Himself. Jesus said that even to give someone even a cup of cold water in His name (because of Him) would receive a reward.
“He who swears to his own hurt and does not change”. This speaks about the importance of standing by our words. Even where it would cost us to stand by our previous declarations (“to his own hurt”), integrity requires us to keep standing by them (“and does not change”). This constancy is important for instance in marriage vows, – you stick with it because you said you would – not because it’s always easy, or fun – sometimes it might be incredibly difficult. (I would add that if someone is physically attacking your life, then I believe you should physically remove yourself from this situation, and love/pray for them from a safe distance). This constancy helps to provide stability in the home and from there the society.
“He who does not put out his money at usury” – “usury” – heavy debt conditions, which could often cripple generations of one family – God recognizes that there is an injustice about this – as with loan-sharks, the debtors involved would often feel that they had no other choice, and they would then struggle indefinitely to pay off these loans.
“Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent” – Self- explanatory, surely?!
“He who does these things shall never be moved”. As well as enabling you to dwell in God’s presence, these are the key characteristics for being firmly established in life.
Photo of hills by Unsplash on Pixabay