Wednesday, July 19, 2006

good news from a psalm?

It was probably over 20 years ago that I memorized this
psalm in its entirety:
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?
Or who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness
and speaketh the truth in his heart,
he that backbiteth not with his tongue
nor doeth evil to his neighbor
nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor,
in whose eyes a vile person is contemned
but he honoureth them that fear the Lord;
he that putteth not out his money to usury
nor taketh a reward against the innocent.
He that doeth these things shall not be moved.
Psalm 15
Probably I got a couple of words wrong here and there, but that's the idea.

So what is this psalm about? On one level, it's talking about the requirements for residence in the temple, to minister before the altar -- and in that sense it's not very useful today because the temple is no longer there. But it also gives a picture of some things that please the Lord. Let's have a look.
  • walk uprightly
    In the NIV it says "blameless," which does not mean "never ever stumbles"; it means, rather, that when he stumbles (sins, errs, whatever), he makes restitution where possible, he confesses, he repents. When he falls, in other words, he picks himself up rather than wallowing in it. He fears God and turns away from evil (like Job did).
  • speaks the truth in his heart
    He is not cagey, but that doesn't mean he must show wide-eyed naiveté either.
  • refrains from gossip and malice
    Malice isn't too hard, but gossip is tough.
  • despises the vile
    which doesn't mean that one has to plot mischief against an evil person, but rather that I don't admire them.
  • usury and bribes
    Basically there's a temptation to do evil (exploit the poor) to gain money

Is that a tough list? For me at least, it's harder than it looks. Sometimes it's tempting to admire the rich and famous, even if they got that way by exploiting others. Sometimes, when I hear something astonishing, I pass it on before I know what I'm doing. Sometimes I know what I'm doing and say it anyway - alas.

So what's the good news here?

Among the good things God can do, one great good thing is that he can change me, if I'm willing, to become more and more like the picture painted in this psalm. And isn't that good news? Amen!

posted 7/23

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