PSALM 15 OVERVIEW
SUBJECT, &c. This Psalm of David bears no dedicatory title at all indicative of the occasion upon which it was written, but it is exceedingly probable that, together with the twenty-fourth Psalm, to which it bears a striking resemblance, its composition was in some way connected with the removal of the ark to the holy hill of Zion. Who should attend upon the ark was a matter of no small consequence, for because unauthorized persons had intruded into the office, David was unable on the first occasion to complete his purpose of bringing the ark to Zion. On the second attempt he is more careful, not only to allot the work of carrying the ark to the divinely appointed Levites ( 1 Chronicles 15:2 ), but also to leave it in charge of the man whose house the Lord had blessed, even Obededom, who, with his many sons, ministered in the house of the Lord. ( 1 Chronicles 26:8 1 Chronicles 26:12 .) Spiritually we have here a description of the man who is a child at home in the Church of God on earth, and who will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever above. He is primarily Jesus, the perfect man, and in him all who through grace are conformed to his image.
Verse 1. THE QUESTION. Jehovah. Thou high and holy One, who shall be permitted to have fellowship with thee? The heavens are not pure in thy sight, and thou chargest thine angels with folly, who then of mortal mould shall dwell with thee, thou dread consuming fire? A sense of the glory of the Lord and of the holiness which becomes his house, his service, and his attendants, excites the humble mind to ask the solemn question before us. Where angels bow with veiled faces, how shall man be able to worship at all? The unthinking many imagine it to be a very easy matter to approach the Most High, and when professedly engaged in his worship they have no questionings of heart as to their fitness for it; but truly humbled souls often shrink under a sense of utter unworthiness, and would not dare to approach the throne of the God of holiness if it were not for him, our Lord, our Advocate, who can abide in the heavenly temple, because his righteousness endureth for ever.
Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall be admitted to be one of the household of God, to sojourn under his roof and enjoy communion with himself?
Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? Who shall be a citizen of Zion, and an inhabitant of the heavenly Jerusalem? The question is raised, because it is a question. All men have not this privilege, nay, even among professors there are aliens from the commonwealth, who have no secret intercourse with God. On the grounds of law no mere man can dwell with God, for there is not one upon earth who answers to the just requirements mentioned in the succeeding verses. The questions in the text are asked of the Lord, as if none but the Infinite Mind could answer them so as to satisfy the unquiet conscience. We must know from the Lord of the tabernacle what are the qualifications for his service, and when we have been taught of him, we shall clearly see that only our spotless Lord Jesus, and those who are conformed unto his image, can ever stand with acceptance before the Majesty on high.
Impertinent curiosity frequently desires to know who and how many shall be saved; if those who thus ask the question, "Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?" would make it a soul searching enquiry in reference to themselves they would act much more wisely. Members of the visible church, which is God's tabernacle of worship, and hill of eminence, should diligently see to it, that they have the preparation of heart which fits them to be inmates of the house of God. Without the wedding dress of righteousness in Christ Jesus, we have no right to sit at the banquet of communion. Without uprightness of walk we are not fit for the imperfect church on earth, and certainly we must not hope to enter the perfect church above.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 1. Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? In that the church of Christ upon earth is a tabernacle, we may note, that neither the church itself, nor the members of it, have any fixed or firm seat of habitation in this world: "Arise, depart, for this is not your rest." Micah 2:10 . "Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." Heb 13:14. God's tabernacle, being a movable temple, wandered up and down, sometimes in the desert, sometimes in Shiloh, sometimes among the Philistines, sometimes in Kirjathjearim, and never found any settled place till it was translated into the mountain of God: even so the church of God wandereth as a straggler and a stranger in the wilderness of this world, being destitute, tormented, and afflicted on every side, persecuted from this city to that, and never enjoying any constant habitation of sound and sure rest until it be translated unto God's holy hill. The verb (Heb.) gur (as the learned in Hebrew note) signifying to dwell as a stranger, or a sojourner, imports that a citizen of heaven is a pilgrim on earth... In that the church is a tabernacle, we may see that it is not a fort, compassed about with any strong walls, armed with any human forces; and yet such as keep within her are defended from heat of sun, and hurt of storms. Her strength is not here, but from above, for Christ her Head is in all her troubles a present help, a refuge against the tempest, a shadow against the heat. Isaiah 35:4 . The church on earth is indeed a tabernacle, but it is God's tabernacle, wherein he dwelleth as in his house; "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?" for to this end the Lord commanded the tabernacle to be made, that he might dwell among them, the blessed apostle construes it of his dwelling among them. 2 Corinthians 6:16 . "You are," saith he, "the temple of the living God, as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them." To the same purpose, God is said elsewhere to dwell in Sion, and to walk in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, that is, in the midst of the seven churches, in the midst of his city ( Psalms 46:5 ), in the midst of his people. Isaiah 12:6 . John Boys, D.D., Dean of Canterbury, 1571-1625.
Verse 1. Lord, who shall abide, etc. If David, a man endued with an excellent and divine spirit, one in whom singular wisdom, rare knowledge, and deep understanding of hidden secrets appeared, who being taught of God in heavenly things, far surpassed and exceeded in wisdom all his teachers and counsellors, did notwithstanding desire to know the sheep from the goats, the good from the bad, the saints from the hypocrites, the true worshippers of God from dissemblers, the true inhabitants of the holy tabernacle from the intruders of the wicked, lest therein he should be deceived; how great cause have we, in whom neither the like spirit, neither such wisdom, nor equal knowledge, nor comparable understanding, by many degrees appeareth, to fear our own weakness, to doubt of our own judgments, to confess our own infirmity, and to suspect the subtle sleights and coloured pretences of men: and for further knowledge in hidden, deep, and secret things, with David to demand and ask this question, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?"... Where David saith, "Who shall abide in thy holy hill?" he giveth us to understand that there is no true and sound rest but in the holy hill of the Lord, which is the church. Then the wicked and ungodly which are not of God's house, of his holy hill, of the church, have no quiet, rest, nor sound peace; but they are in continual perplexity, continual torment, continual disquietness of their minds. Richard Turnbull, 1606.
Verse 1. Abide in the tabernacle, etc. The worshippers in the outer court only will get their eternal abode without among the dogs, sorcerers, etc; but they that shall be inhabitants of heaven, come further in, even unto the tabernacle itself: their souls are fed at his table, they find the smell of his garments as of myrrh, aloes, and cassia; and if they miss it at any time, it is the grief of their souls, and they are never at rest till they recover it again. Thomas Boston.
Verse 1. Who shall dwell, etc.
"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!'" John Barclay, quoted by A. A. Bonar, in loc.
Verse 1. Holy hill. Heaven is aptly compared to a hill, hell to a hole. Now who shall ascend unto this holy mount? None but those whom this mount comes down unto, that have sweet communion with God in this life present, whose conversation is in heaven, though their commoration be for awhile upon earth, who do here eat, and drink, and sleep, eternal life. John Trapp.
Verse 1-2. The disguising and counterfeiting of hypocrites in all ages, occasioned haply this query: for, as Paul speaks, "all are not Israel that are of Israel," a great many living in the church are not of the church, according to that of the doctors upon this place, multi sunt corpore qui non sunt fide, multi nomine qui non sunt nomine. Wherefore, David, here perceiving that sundry people were shuffled into God's tabernacle like goats among the sheep, and tares among the corn, being Jews outwardly, but not inwardly, deceiving others often, and, sometimes, themselves also, with a bare profession of religion, and false opinion of true piety, cometh unto God (as to the searcher and trier of the hearts of men, acquainted with all secrets, and best understanding who are his own), saying unto him, O Lord, forsomuch as there is so much unsoundness and hypocrisy reigning among those that dwell in thy tabernacle, professing thy word, and frequenting the places of thy worship; I beseech thee most humbly, to declare to thy people some tokens and cognizances by which a true subject of thy kingdom may be discerned from the children of this world. Here then, observe, that an external profession of faith, and outward communion with the church of God, is not sufficient unto salvation, unless we lead an incorrupt life correspondent to the same, doing the thing which is right, and speaking the truth in our heart. And, therefore, the silly Papist is exceedingly deceived in relying so much upon the church's outside, to wit, upon the succession of Roman bishops, upon the multitude of Roman Catholics, upon the power and pomp of the Roman synagogue, crying as the Jews in old time, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord," our church is the temple of the Lord. The carnal and careless gospeller is deceived also, placing all his religion in the formal observation of outward service, for a mere verbal Christian is a real atheist, according to that of Paul ( Titus 1:16 ), "In word they profess that they know God, but in their works they deny him;" and so many who seem to sojourn in God's tabernacle for a time, shall never rest upon his holy hill; and this assertion is expressly confirmed by Christ himself: "Not every one (saith he) that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23 . Consider this, all ye which are Christians in lip only but not in life, making a mask of religion, or rather a very vizard, with eyes, and mouth, and nose, fairly painted and proportioned to all pretences and purposes. O think on this, all ye that forget God, he that dwelleth on high, and beholds the things here below, suffers none to rest upon the mountain of his holiness but such as walk uprightly, doing that which is just, and speaking that which is true. John Boys.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Qualifications for church membership on earth and in heaven. A subject for self examination.
- Comparison of the church to the tabernacle. God's presence manifested, sacrifice offered, and vessels of grace preserved in it; mean externally, glorious within.
- Comparison of its double position to that of the tabernacle. Moving in the wilderness, and fixed on the hill.
- Enquire into qualification for admittance into church and tabernacle. Parallel with the priests, etc.
Verse 1. The great question. Asked by idle curiosity, despair, godly fear, earnest enquirer, soul troubled by falls of others, holy faith. Give answer to each.
Verse 1. The citizen of Zion described. Thomas Boston's Sermons.
Verse 1. Anxiety to know the true saints, how far lawful and profitable.
Verse 1. God the only infallible discerner of true saints.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE FIFTEENTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
Fower Sermons and Two Questions, as they were uttered and disputed by that learned Frenchman, PETER BARO. 1560.
Lectures on the XV. Psalme read in the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, in London. By GEORGE DOWNAME. Doctor of Divinitie, London. 1604. 4to.
Four Sermons, by way of Exposition of Psalm 15., by RICHARD TURNBULL, are found at the end of the old 4to containing his Exposition of the Epistles of James and Jude. There is no separate title page to the Exposition of the Psalm; the date of the book is 1606.
The Works of John Boys, D.D., Deane of Canterburie, 1629, folio, contains Expositions of Psalms 2, 9, and 15. (The folio edition of Boys' Works consists of Expositions of the Scriptures used in the Liturgy.)
A Practical and Polemical Commentary, or Exposition on the whole Fifteenth Psalm, wherein the text is learnedly and fruitfully explained, some controversies discussed, sundry cases of conscience are cleared; more especially that of USURIE. By CHRISTOPHER CARTWRIGHT, late minister of Saint Martin's, in the city of York. 1658. 4to.