Psalm 15 Summary. Qualifications for Fellowship and Worship
To have fellowship with God and worship him one must live blamelessly, do righteous acts, and speak honestly.
David asks who is qualified to have access to the LORD and spend time as a guest or as a temporary resident in the tabernacle at Zion. He answers that the person who lives a life of integrity, does righteous deeds, and speaks truthfully may do so. David then expands his statement with seven more character traits. He concludes that this kind of person will also have spiritual stability, spiritual security, and confidence from the LORD. This psalm reminds people what is required to worship God. Proverbs 6.16-19, Matthew 5.1-16, Galatians 5.13-26, Ephesians 5.1-21, and Philippians 4.8-9 are a few of the many passages that include lists of sins and good spiritual life habits. The context may have reference to Israel gathering for prayer, sacrifices, and festivals (see Allen Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, Vol 1, page 388).
This Psalm by David was from the time before the temple existed. The tent refers to the portable tabernacle in which the LORD met his people. Israel brought it from the exodus. The holy hill was Zion, where the tent was put, and later it became the temple area or temple mount (Psalm 3.4; 24.3; Daniel 9.16, 20; Zephaniah 3.11). Zion was originally the Canaanite city that David conquered (2 Samuel 5.7; 6.10-12, 17). It later became the city of Jerusalem (Lamentations 1.4; Zechariah 8.3).
- Psalm 15.1 David asks who may have fellowship with the LORD and worship him.
- Psalm 15.2-5b. David answers with ten characteristics that describe the personal life.
- Psalm 15.5c. This person will have spiritual stability and security, and confidence from the LORD in addition to fellowship with the LORD.
Psalm 15.1 David asks who may have fellowship with the LORD and worship him.
- David asks Yahweh who may abide and dwell in the tabernacle which is on Mt Zion. The verbs indicate a temporary dwelling: Abide גּוּר (gûr) Strong 1481, sojourn, dwell), שָׁכַן (šākan) inhabit dwell, Strong 7931. They refer to times of worship. The priest and Levites would live close by. The Israelite people would come to the tent at various times. The main point addresses who is qualified to approach the dwelling place of the LORD. Sin was not allowed. While an Israelite might not readily violate the obvious ten commandments, this list reminds them of sin they might not think of. And Israelites did need reminders of who is acceptable to God. Daily practical righteousness is clarified in the following verses. If one sins, the right sacrifice must be offered. Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 are commentaries on sin, confession, discipline, and the joy and blessing of forgiveness. John 13 calls this foot washing cleansing. First John 1 instructs about walking in the light and confession of sin. First Peter 1.13-17 call believers to personal holiness. Are we qualified to approach God on a continuing basis?
Psalm 15.2-5b. David answers with ten characteristics that describe the personal life.
- Psalm 15.2a. Walks with integrity means he is blameless, complete, flawless, sound, not spiritually sick or unclean. The word is תָּמִים (tāmîm) Strong 8549. When one approaches God he must be without sin blemishing him. When necessary he must make confession and sacrifice.
- Psalm 15.2b. Works righteousness refers to what a person does. This is a moral and ethical life. The standard for measure is God’s standard for what is sin and what is right.
- Psalm 15.2c. Speak truth from the heart refers to honest speaking. The heart is the center of volition and thought. What one says should be genuine, truthful. Don’t say one thing and be thinking or planning another. See psalm 12.1. אֱמֶת (ʾĕmet) Strong 571 is a key word with a range of meanings—reliable, dependable, truth, faithfulness.
- Psalm 15.3a. Does not slander. Foot it or go about with his tongue is one who slanders. He is one who spreads stories that hurt someone else, whether the tales told are true or not. See Proverbs 10.18; Ephesians 4.31; Colossians 4.8; 1 Peter 2.1.
- Psalm 15.3b. Nor does evil to his neighbor. He does not injure or cause pain to his neighbor. Instead he loves his neighbor as he loves himself. Luke 10.27-37 indicates a neighbor is one in your vicinity whom needs help and you can help.
- Psalm 15.3c. Nor takes up a reproach. A reproach is a verbal taunt, scorn, abuse, ridicule, (חֶרְפָּה ḥerpâ Strong 2781). This is making fun of someone in a way that hurts that person. See James 3.8-12.
- Psalm 15.4a-b. We need to practice spiritual discernment. A reprobate is despised, and honor those who fear the LORD. This says that the blameless person can tell who is a reprobate and who fears the LORD. The reprobate (מָאַס (māʾas) Strong 3998, one refused, rejected, and even refuse). Here this person’s character and life mark him as one who rejects the LORD and his way of life. The verse makes a contrast with those who fear the LORD. The point is that believers need to practice spiritual discernment in such a way that we do not raise up, honor, or imitate those who follow and show off the nonbiblical worldview and lifestyle. This is common today regarding actors, politicians, athletes, and anyone who flaunts a nonbiblical lifestyle. Instead, give proper respect to the person who fears the LORD. See Psalm 16.3; 1 Peter 2.17. See the doctrine of fear of the LORD.
- 8. Psalm 15.4c. He swears to his own hurt is literally “he swears to do harm.” This has to do with faithfulness, keeping your word even though it may bring harm to you. In context he is not to harm others, so the meaning is to do harm to himself. This verse teaches that this person keeps his oaths, even when they harm himself. He makes a commitment and keeps it, even if it is bad for himself. See Ruth 1.16-17 where Ruth made an oath to go with Naomi, even if it might mean her own death.
Psalm 15.5c. This person will have security and confidence from the LORD in addition to fellowship with the LORD.
- Psalm 15.5a. Money at interest means he uses his money wisely and helps fellow Israelites. He is not to lend it “with a bite,” at interest. One is not to burden a fellow Israelite, but instead to help him. Loaning money at interest to other Israelites was forbidden (Exodus 22.25; Leviticus 25.36; Deuteronomy 23.19-20). If another Israelite needed money, do not loan money and expect interest in return. That just adds one more burden on him. The point was to help the other person, not to make life more difficult.
- Psalm 15.5b. Do not take a bribe. This goes back to maintaining justice. One who perverted justice by taking a bribe destroyed the entire order of a community. How could he enter the tabernacle that was indwelt by the just God, when he was promoting injustice. Relate this also to partiality in dealing with people. See Deuteronomy 27.25; James 2.1-10.
- Psalm 15.5c. This person will never be shaken. The one who lives according to Psalm 15 will be welcomed to the tent (Psalm 15.1) and will have inner spiritual stability because of his fellowship with the LORD. In context, this seems to be the main point, not physical stability in life. First confidence and stability in relationship with the LORD and this will give inner stability in life. See Psalm 16.8; 21.7; 30.6; 62.2, 6; 112.6).
So what for us?
- There are requirements of personal righteousness to enjoy fellowship with God and to worship him.
- The standard for our fellowship with God and with people is God’s word, the Bible. We must beware of getting trapped into the world’s viewpoint of morality, thinking, talking, relative standards, money, and justice.
- The benefits for one who lives God’s way are fellowship with God, with people, and spiritual stability.
- Not mentioned in this psalm, but clearly in the background, is what to do if sin prevents the approach to God. When we sin we must confess the sin to God. The Israelite confessed sin based on the animal sacrifice. We confess sin and are forgiven based on Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.