Psalm 15: The Characteristics of the Godly - Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

March 24, 2014
Tom Lowe

Psalm 15

Title: The Characteristics of the Godly.
A Psalm of David.

Psalm 15 (KJV)

1 LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

In this Psalm, we have the description of the perfect Man; a lovely portrait of the Lord Jesus. As we read this little psalm, we are reminded of the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount because the same subjects are covered and in approximately the same sequence. In fact, you might say that this is David’s Sermon on the Mount.

Some Bible scholars see in this psalm a similarity to Psalm 24 which is a celebration of the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem by David. The presence of the sacred ark brought great prestige to the city and would therefore be an occasion that could prompt the writing of Psalm 15 which makes the probing inquiry into what kind of conduct should be expected from those who are blessed to have the presence of Almighty God dwell among them. It is also interesting that for centuries this psalm was linked to the ascension of Jesus Christ—having lived a sinless life, He passed into the heavenly realm to set down on the throne of God, at God’s right hand. David had a revelation of this happening and he would certainly be inspired to write this psalm to celebrate the event.

It is good, I think, before we begin to analyze this psalm to consider what God’s people should be:
1. A Happy People. The bringing of the ark to Jerusalem was certainly a happy occasion and it would have brought Jerusalem’s residents out into the streets to celebrate its arrival with joyful shouts of praise to God and to David who brought it there. The scene is reminiscent of Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time and the great crowds who welcomed Him by waving palm branches and shouts of hosanna and halleluiah. Neither were the people mere spectators when the ark was carried through the city streets, but lined the route and celebrated along with David who danced before the Lord with all his might. The people were certainly conscience of this being a happy occasion. GOD’S PEOPLE SHOULD BE HAPPY PEOPLE.
2. A Holy People. If this psalm actually was the motivation for the Sermon on the Mount, it would be a good idea to review that wonderful sermon by our Lord. Christians are to be holy in the words they speak, in their conduct, and even in their thoughts; they are to be holy before God and men. “Be ye holy, for I am holy, saith the Lord.”
3. A Heavenly People. The church has associated this psalm with Jesus’ return to His Father in heaven. He is in heaven today, and someday we will be there too. Now that is really something wonderful to look forward to. I hope that you will be there too.

This psalm came from the heart of David and gives a voice to his feelings for the prophesied coming of Israel’s Redeemer; but the fulfillment of it had to wait many centuries for the birth of David’s greater and glorious Son. Jesus was the only One who could fulfill the moral and spiritual requirements expressed by this psalm. The Holy Spirit gave David the words, but the picture they create is of the Lord Jesus.


1 LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? There are two opposite concepts here.

A. A Pilgrim Worshiper

“LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?” The tabernacle of the Old Testament was a type of tent, though very large and elaborate, but here David is referring to the tent he had just set up on Mount Zion. A tent is a temporary, movable house that is easily struck and it can be quickly pitched. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob chose to live in a tent, though they were wealthy men and could have lived in a palace had they wanted to do so. They were content to live in a tent, and they were ready to move at a moment’s notice and to comply with a command from God.

God had become a Pilgrim down here. He pitched his tent in the wilderness, in Shiloh, on Mount Zion, and wherever the nation of Israel sojourned at the time. The tent where the Ark of the Covenant resided is where Israel met with God through their priests. David longed to enter this tent, but the Law of Moses stood before the tent like a barrier to keep him out. Someone has changed the verse to read thus, “Jehovah, who shall be a guest in thy tent?” I think this is a wonderful way to think of God. David saw God as a Host; the kind of host who would have only honorable guests. The rest of the psalm describes the type of person that can expect to be invited to be a guest in the house of God. Let’s remember, we are His invited Guests, and therefore, we must try to conduct ourselves in a way that brings Him honor, and lives up to His expectations.

B. A Permanent Worshipper

“Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” A hill is a symbol of something permanent. David wanted to provide a house for God that was more than a tent on Mount Zion, something that was permanent; he wanted to build a temple on Mount Moriah. We read in 2 Samuel 7:2, “That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.” David didn’t believe he should live in a palace while the Shekinah presence of God dwelt in a tent. God must have been aware of how David felt, since he was delighted to promise David that for having such a good and generous thought, his house, his dynasty, should last forever.

So, in this verse we have two opposite truths of pilgrimage and permanence. As Christians, we cannot have any permanent roots down here, but we can have them in God’s holy hill. These bodies of flesh are only a temporary tent for our souls; our spirit yearns to be with Him in whom we have believed. We may be pilgrims down here, but we will be eternally with Him in heaven.

“LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?” David now answers his own question.

II. DAVID’S WALK (15:2-4)

We know a lot about David’s life. For instance, we know that he lusted after a woman, and in order to get her he had her husband killed. Now, that doesn’t sound “like a man after God’s own heart.” But David repented of this sin, and God forgave him and restored him to fellowship. He must have had some outstanding qualities and many times they emerge through psalms like this one. David now describes the walk of a man who would be the guest of the living God.

2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

A. His Works (15:2a)

“He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness.” The significant word in this line is “uprightly.” A good definition for our purpose would be a man devoted to righteousness; a man who is righteous, honest, or just: an upright person. In spiritual terms, the man who would be a guest in God’s house must be like the perfect sacrifice, without blemish; he must be blameless. His works must stand the test of God’s scrutiny.

B. His Words (15:2b-4)

David has a lot to say about a person’s language, because what a man says reveals a lot about him. The Book of James has a remarkable test to determine the perfect man. “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body” (James 3:2). One definition of perfect is “entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings; excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” Do you know anyone like that? God is not going to have any loose talk at His table.

1. His Secret Words (15:2b)

He speaketh the truth in his heart. This is the first time the word “truth” appears in the psalms. Whenever a Jew brought a lamb to the temple for a sacrifice, he would take it to the priest. The priest would run his hand over the animal to check for blemishes. Then he would expose all the inward parts and carefully search for any imperfections. The priest is about to take his dissecting knife and open up our inner most parts to inspection—our thoughts, desires, motives. He is looking for the man whose whole life is based upon truth and whose inner life is truth. God considers not only our secret words, but also our innermost, hidden thoughts.

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