Psalm 15: The Characteristics of the Godly - Page 2 of 2 (series: Lessons on Psalms)
by John Lowe
2. His Spoken Words (15:3-4)
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.
a) Restrained (15:3a)
In verses 3 and 4 there are four areas where we can sin through our words. The man who would be a guest at the Lord’s table must be able to restrain his language. He that backbiteth not with his tongue (3a). We have one modern word which we use for that sin—GOSSIP. And there are two modern instruments that are frequently used to spread gossip; the telephone and the cell phone.
In Romans 1 there is a terrible catalog of sins frequently committed by people which forms the backbone of God’s indictment of the human race. The picture we get from reading Romans 1 is of mankind in a downward spiral. We are not getting better either spiritually or morally; we are getting worse. In that chapter, there are two kinds of people made to stand side-by-side, surrounded by murderers, fornicators, and homosexuals. The King James Bible calls them “whisperers and backbiters.” They’re also called “whisperers-behind-doors, stabbers-in-the-back.” That’s the back-biter, a man or woman who stabs you in the back.
b) Righteous (15:3b)
The man who would be a guest at the Lord ’s table must also be a man whose words are righteous. “Nor doeth evil to his neighbor.” The word “evil” comes from a root which implies the breaking up of everything that is good and desirable. The Greek equivalent is the word poneros (from which we derive our word “pornography”). The word is used especially of moral depravity, corruption, and vulgarity. The Lord doesn’t want anyone at His table who tells dirty jokes. “He doeth evil pornography to his neighbor.” It is bewildering that even some Christians tell dirty jokes. It reveals an unclean heart.
c) Respectful (15:4a)
The man who would be the Lord’s guest must be one whose words are respectful. “In whose eyes a vile person is contemned.” The New King James replaces “contemned” with “despised.” The word “vile” is interesting. An illustration that may help us to understand what is meant by the word in this context is the process for refining silver. A silversmith heats the metal until it is molten. The scum, or dross, rises to the surface and the smith treats it with contempt (or as something “despised”). He scoops it up and throws it away. It is worthless. That is the idea here. The person who would set at the Lord’s table feels that way about the vile person, whose manner of life he despises. But in contrast he honors the godly man. He speaks of him with the greatest respect.
d) Reliable (15:4b)
The man who would set at the Lord’s table is also a man whose words are “reliable.” “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not” (15.4b). Who could possibly be a better example of the reliable person than the Lord Jesus? Can you imagine how difficult it was for Him to submit to death by crucifixion? In the Garden of Gethsemane the stress of it caused him to weep and sweat great drops of blood. Then He prayed, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” He kept His word and went to the cross to die for our sins. You can count on Jesus; He is reliable.
III. DAVID’S WAYS (15:5)
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.
There were two things said about the ways of the man who would be a guest in God’s house.
A. They Were Fair (15:5a)
He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward bribes against the innocent. “Usury” is an obsolete word which has been replaced in our modern vocabulary with “exploitation” and “profiteering.” Usury, then, is the act or practice of loaning money at an exorbitant rate of interest. Bribery and usury are the two most common and fragrant sins against justice in the East. The wheels of justice never move in the Eastern countries unless they are well oiled—then they move in the favor of the highest bidder. The man who is greedy and is not too bothered about what he does to make money has no business as God’s guest in His house and at His table; his ways must be fair.
B. They Were Fixed (15:5b)
“He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” The man who lives according to the dictates of Psalm 15 will be God’s guest, and will be assured of a permanent welcome. In other words, he will have a welcome, not only as the Lord’s guest here, but he will be the Lord’s guest hereafter. “I shall live in the house of the Lord forever!” said David in Psalm 23.
But where do we find such a man—the man who qualifies to be God’s guest? Well, we shall have to cross over to the New Testament to find Him. The only man who ever walked uprightly, working righteousness, whose innermost thoughts and whose every spoken word met the approval of God; whose words were restrained, righteous, respectful, and reliable; whose ways were always fair and whose path was firmly fixed was Jesus. He preached the Sermon on the Mount and then—under the all-seeing eye of God, and exposed to public scrutiny—He practiced what He preached. Then He passed His righteousness on to you and me. His righteousness has become our righteousness so that now we, even though we stumble, we can come into His house and become a guest at His table. What was the gracious word of Paul’s? “Let a man examine himself and so let him eat.” Examine yourself: I’m sure that like me, you will find out that you are not good enough to enter God’s house and set down at His table. But when the time comes, the righteousness of Jesus will cover your every flaw and blemish, and God will say to you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: ENTER THOU INTO THE JOY OF THY LORD.”