HOLINESS UNTO JEHOVAH.
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.—Psalm Xv.
This Psalm, which is primarily intended for self-examination, marks the true characteristics of' the generation of the righteous.' Like all scriptural self-examination, it leads to comfort in dependence on Divine grace (ver. 5). In contradistinction to external privileges, it refers to the hopes of God's spiritual Israel (ver. 1) ; in opposition to a merely outward compliance with the demands of the law, it traces in outline the true character of walking with God; while, in contrast to all self-righteousness, it finally refers to the grace of God in which we stand. Besides its frequent reference to the spirit of the Old Testament dispensation, a marked connexion subsists between it and two other passages of Scripture. Thus, the fullest illustration of the words, 'He that doeth these things shall never be moved,' is given in the corresponding passage, Isa. xxxiii. 13 to end, especially vers. 16, 17: 'He shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks; bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty; they shall behold the land that is very far off.' Again, the fullest unfolding and application of the whole Psalm is that by our blessed Lord in His sermon on the mount (Luke vi.), closing with the parable of the house founded on the rock, which could not be shaken by flood nor stream.
To begin our self-examination by setting before our eyes the blessed privileges of God's people, here and hereafter, is indeed sweet. This is to 'covet earnestly the best gifts.' Not from morbid feeling, but from joyous longing after Zion, the city of our God, do we enter upon jealous sifting and searching of our hearts. The joy of God's people is twofold: 'Who shall sojourn in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in the mountain of Thy holiness?' The former refers to the Church militant, the latter to the Church triumphant. The tabernacle and Mount Zion were figures of the ' good things to come.' To the former only the priests, to the latter only Israelites, had access. But we are all ' a priestly nation,' 'the Israel of God.' This David and all Old Testament believers felt. They saw His ' day afar off and rejoiced' (Ps. xxvii. 4; lxi. 4; lxv. 1 ; lxxxiv. 4; compare the expression, Eph. ii. 19, 'ye are ... of the householdof God,' in its most literal sense). There is no surer test of our spirituality than to long after His felt presence (Ps. xxvii. 4; lxxxiv. 2). Very noteworthy also is here the appeal to 'Jehovah', which indicates so realized a sense of these blessings, and the expressions 'Thy tabernacle,' ' the mountain of Thy holiness' (comp. Ps. xlii. xliii). For nothing less than fellowship with the living God can meet the wants of the renewed soul (Ps. Ixxiii. 25).
But we are too prone to substitute our enjoyment for our service of God. These feelings of heavenly citizenship and of earthly communion with Him,—this intense longing for more of His presence here, and for the eternal light hereafter,—are the root which is in Christ, and of which our service, both internal and external, is the offspring. 'Holiness unto Jehovah' is separation from the world and its ways (Ps. xiv.) It is more than that, being ' fruit unto God.' Its first characteristic mark is to 'walk complete, entirely, or wholly' with God (for these are the ideas conveyed in the expression), or heart-allegiance and life-surrender, without reserve or self-seeking. However much we may fail in execution, yet whereas we formerly lived to ourselves, and God was not in all our thoughts, we now wish wholly and unreservedly to give ourselves—body, soul, and spirit—unto the Lord. Corresponding to this is the outward direction of life: 'he that worketh righteousness.' It is interesting to follow the etymological idea of the word 'righteousness' from its root, 'to be firm,' established, strong, to its twofold termination in 'truthfulness, reliableness, faithfulness;' and, on the other hand, in 'victory and prevailing.' Still more markedly spiritual and internal is the principle of all our conduct: 'he that speaketh truth in his heart' This spiritual uprightness in our dealings with men is alike different from the selfishness of flattery, the callousness of deception, the carelessness of indifference, and the cruelty of sin. To speak truth in our hearts implies true feeling, as well as true speaking and true dealing. Such relations are based on our true relation to God. Because God became our Father, men became our brethren. It includes all loving spiritual interest and all holy carefulness towards them. Beginning at the heart, it manifests itself in the life. It is our new nature, and it becomes natural to us ' to love the brethren.' The question, 'who is my brother ?' has long been answered. To put it anew only argues our estrangement from the ' elder Brother.' Yet how grievously do we fail in this matter, both in the highest and best sense, and in everyday life! Perhaps flattery more than any other sin has barred to multitudes the door of heaven. To be truthful and loving,—true because we love, and loving because we are true,—is indeed the 'work of righteousness.'
Scripture seems to attach special importance to the tongue, not only as (with many) the most active member, but because speech is the distinctive characteristic of men, and the tongue the organ wherewith we 'bless God, even the Father.' 'If any man offend not in word' (if he have learned heavenly wisdom there), 'the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.' Nothing could be more graphic than a literal rendering of the description of the sins of the tongue (ver. 3): 'he that goeth not about upon his tongue,' ' a busybody in other men's matters' with the tongue: a habit this which often springs from idleness, and is carried on in carelessness, but has its real source in ignorance of ourselves, and want of love. And now the moral description of evil deepens with the increasing danger. The expression,' He that doeth not evil to his neighbour,' not only shows the progress of sin, but in the etymology of the word 'neighbour' (from ' being connected ' or ' associated') exhibits its hatefulness and unnaturalness; and as if to designate the climax of the evil, it is described as 'bringing shame upon his neighbour' (literally, him 'who is near'). Few sins are more odious and yet more common than the light and uncharitable manner in which Christians speak of each other. Never let us speak of our neighbour to others as we would not speak of him to God. Prayer is the best test of truth and of charity. Speak in the tone of prayer even when you do not speak in the accents of prayer. For, if we love not our brother whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen?
The first clause of ver. 4 has been rendered: 'Vile in his own eyes, contemned,' as referring to the grace of humility, so characteristic of believers. But grave reasons (derived from the text and context) decide for the more common rendering, which indicates a stage of Christian uprightness, too rare in its attainment. Not to judge by outward appearance, but to judge righteous judgment; not to hold men's persons in esteem for the sake of filthy lucre, not to be swayed in our choice and likings by worldly considerations, needeth a very vivid sense of spiritual realities. Plain as it may seem, it is given as one of the promises of better days, that 'the vile person shall no more be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful.' Whenever I am tempted unduly to esteem the world's influence, unsanctified talent, and the mere possession of wealth, let me remember how little these can either accomplish or prevent. 'Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.' But 'the Lord abideth for ever.' Prayer can bar or unlock the floodgates of heaven, and faith can remove mountains. To honour them 'that fear Jehovah' is to honour Jehovah Himself, who will be 'admired in His saints.' Any one of God's little ones deserves and should secure our respect, as being of 'the heirs of God, and jointheirs with Christ.'
Thus, having victory over the world, 'even our faith,' we are able through grace for the proper discharge of duty, even under difficulties ancl temptations. Having the one Master, we are set free from the 'lords many' who keep the men of this world all their lifetime in bondage. True Christianity shows itself equally in all the relations and circumstances of life. Personal loss cannot decide us in our course of action; personal gain may not influence us; personal considerations do not determine us. The threefold characteristics mentioned in vers. 4 and 5 are to be regarded as representing so many lines of relationship and conduct. Grace pervades the whole man, and gracious motives are ever present. There are many obligations which seem to threaten loss and hurt; yet they are on that ground none the less binding. In questions of duty it is always dangerous to forecast consequences. Satan is a much better logician than any of us, and if we give place to calculation it will not be difficult somehow to arrive at the conclusion that we are at liberty to change. There are few, if any, real duties, in opposition to inclinations, which do not seem to involve self-sacrifice and 'hurt.' Yet may this also be carried to opposite extremes. Nothing can be really incumbent upon us which is not in accordance with God's holy will and revealed mind. Here, as in everything else, the rule must be to live and act as in His sight, yet with a deep and humbling sense of our own weakness and shortcomings, and with earnest application for pardon of our sins through the peace-speaking blood of Jesus.
If it is difficult to avoid the calculations of selfishness in the form of fear, it is still more so not to yield to them under the guise of advantage. Not to do what lieth to us from fear of hurt is one danger; to do what lieth to us—or, perhaps, sometimes what does not lie to us—from self-interest, or from sordid motives, is another, and a greater and more subtle danger. We surround ourselves with such a mist of sophistry that we fail to perceive our actions in their true light. Much that looks kind is but selfish, and the warning ^gainst 'giving his money in usury' (literally, that which 'cuts in' or ' bites ') must be taken in the implied contrast of the words 'give' and 'biting,' and as illustrated in Luke vi. 32-36. Christian beneficence is the free outgoing of a heart which has found peace in Jesus, and learned to love. The question of return never enters into" that of working for the Lord. Here, as in all things, the great object is to serve the Lord directly, through the channels which He opens, whether it be in His poor, in His sick, in His suffering, or even in the unthankful. So long as we help man, or do it as unto man, we have missed the right, evangelical motive and principle. A Christian is one who views all things, feels all things, and does all things, as in Christ. 'To me to live is Christ.' But perhaps the most difficult attainment is so to be set free from all personal considerations in our opinions and judgments as to resist all positive allurements, and thus to enter into the spirit of the warning, ' not to take a present, or a bribe, upon the innocent.' For there are bribes of various kinds, and different modes of taking them. It is undoubtedly true of the world that 'every man has his price.' The Christian is free, because he has been ransomed. Let us, therefore, not again be brought into bondage to beggarly elements. Extreme watchfulness over our own hearts, and cultivation of fellowship with God, are here requisite. Nor is there any one who has not reason to be humbled in His sight, and to seek grace more fully to walk in the Spirit, even as we live in the Spirit.
Most precious and comforting is the conclusion of this Psalm: 'He that doeth these things will not be allowed to be moved to eternity' (as we would correctly paraphrase the> construction by means of the italicised verb). Even so—grace will sustain and maintain us. He taketh care of His people. Peter, though violently shaken, will not be allowed to be moved, for the great High Priest has prayed for him. He will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to bear, but will, with the temptation, give a way of escape. In looking forward we should ever cherish faith in His providence, as designed to co-operate with His grace. 'Lead us not into temptation,' is a prayer daily and literally heard. 'The very hairs of your head are all numbered.' We shall not be allowed to be moved to all eternity. He will' perfect and stablish' us. We have an Advocate at God's right hand, who ever pleadeth for us and watcheth over us. 'For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.'
1. Why should we be cast down when there is a promise of grace? If we were left to ourselves we might well shrink from self-examination, and fear even after we had obtained pardon. But to fear in view of grace is not to believe. Freely all is given; fully all is given; lovingly all is given. The thought of grace should indeed transport us. It is in the nature of grace to meet every one, and to meet him whereever he be. There was no greater claim to grace in the cast of Paul than there is in my case. Grace is its own reason. It springs from the love of God in Christ Jesus, His Son. Grace does not indeed equally meet all, but all may equally have it. 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.' I am not to reason on this promise, but to believe and to receive it. My question as to the 'how' of its fulfilment shall be answered, or rather shall be met, when, like the man with the withered hand, I shall have stretched it forth at His command. Therefore, this day let me come in obedience to the call of mercy; now, let me believe—flee to Him, cleave to Him, and trust in Him—and live.
2. How precious is the redemption of the soul! Let me meditate on the value of it; let me realize an eternity of glory; let me now taste the joyousness of believing fellowship with Him. Truly earth's gold is but dross, and its joys but toys. Thou, Lord, art Thyself the joy and strength of my soul. How soon will this shifting scene pass for ever— and what then? Nay, if I could only occupy till He come! How soon shall earth and her works be burnt up ?' Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.' We live too much in time and for time. This day let me press closer, if it were but to touch the hem of His garment, for power goeth forth out of Him. Of all thoughts the most precious is that of walking with Jesus, here and hereafter. And now, Lord, art Thou near to me. Come and take me, and make me wholly Thine.
3. Yet our joy in prospect of eternity must not unfit nor indispose us for the duties of this life. It must encompass them as with a halo of glory. Let me remember in my daily walk that the inscription on the high priest's mitre shall 'in that day' be even 'upon the bells of the horses' (Zech. xiv. 20). With most scrupulous care let me guard the issues of the heart. I must be a Christian in all I undertake and in all I do, as well as in all I believe and hope. Thus must I seek to glorify God, thus must I manifest the new nature, and not only as to its fruits, but also as to its character, let me ever bear in mind that it is a new nature, 'created in Christ Jesus unto good works.' Lord, live and reign in me, that I may live and reign with Thee!
Now, who is he? say, if ye can,
Who so shall gain the firm abode?
Pilate shall say, 'Behold the Man!'
And John, 'Behold the Lamb of God!'