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Living with God

Ps 15
LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?:
He whose walk is blameless and
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth in his heart and
has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong and
casts no slur on his fellowman, who
despises a vile man but
honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury and
does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Notice that in writing this Psalm David understood that God would live with not just anybody. True that he "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1Tim 2:4, and so he spends time with them calling sinners to repentance, but for them to live with him in any permanent and intimate sense they must repent and take on such behaviors and attitutudes some of which David has noted here. And concerning our glorification such is also the fate of those who believe in Christ and are born of God. But while we walk in this life the degree of intimacy we have with God is largely a function of the degree to which we take on these kinds of character qualities in cooperation with the Spirit.

In this life we struggle with sin. Perfection of character while being a goal is neither attained in this life nor is our progress towards such guaranteed to be maintained. "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." Gal 5:17 Nonetheless the Bible does speak of these character qualities as attainable in a "gnomic" sense. That is one could say "generally speaking such and such is characteristic of the person", even though it may not be so in an absolute sense.

Concerning blamelessness for example, not only is this attainable, it is a requirement for church eldership.  "Since an overseer is entrusted with Godís work, he must be blameless."Titus 1:7 And such was characteristic of Paul and his team. "You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed." 1Th 2:10 So also in the Old Testament David says of himself, "I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin." Ps 18:23  This is doable.

Secondly to do what is righteous is naturally characteristic of those born of God. In fact "Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God." 1John 3:10

So also it should be characteristic of children of God to speak truth in one's heart. That is, we speak truth not only to other people, but more significantly we speak it to ourselves in our meditations, freeing us from self-delusion. This requires we have a critical evaluation not only of what other people say, but also a critical evaluation of our own thoughts, ideas, interpretations. When it says, "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God" 1John 4:1, that includes examining ourselves as well.

The next three - not slandering with our tongue, doing no wrong to our neighbor, and casting no slur on our fellowman - have to do with our attitude towards others. If we love others these will not be characteristic of our lives. But these often show themselves in subtle ways. Misrepresenting someone else's point of view is a common form of slander even among those who reckon themselves "good" Christians. Casting a slur on others could involve lying about them. But it may involve simply exaggerating something which is true, which in arguments is often preceeded by the phrase "you always ...". Love considers not only what is true, but what is edifying. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Eph 4:29

But realize also that the kind of people that God likes to live with also despise vile men. That is, not the men themselves, but their vileness. Jesus commends the Christians for hating the evil deeds of vile men. To one assembly of Christians he says, "This in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." Rev 2:6 and to another assembly commends them saying, "I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men" Rev 2:2 While there is a sense in which we are all wicked in that we all sin from time to time, there is also a more specific category of people even the New Testament refers to as wicked. Paul for example says,"Expel the wicked man from among you." 1Cor 5:13 and in 1Cor 6:9,10 lists specific kinds of wicked people who do not enter in the kingdom of God. So also he requests "pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith."2Thess 3:2

In contrast to this not only does the righteous associate with those who fear the Lord, but even honor them. "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves."Rom 12:10  In fact "the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." 1Tim 5:17

Keeping one's oath only when it's beneficial or convenient to do so is not characteristic of people God likes to be around. If you're not faithful to your own word, how can you be faithful to God's word. If a person doesn't respect their own promises, much less will they respect God. But a person's faithfulness not put to the test until their oath comes into conflict with unforeseen circumstances. Thus for example due to unforeseen circumstances spouses will change their oath "till death do us part" to "till divorce do us part". Or people will add or subtract conditions to their oath - whatever makes it more convenient at the time. God doesn't like to live with such people. He prefers people who keep their word even when it hurts to do so.

Next concerns lending money. The law of Moses reveals God's attitude towards charging money. "If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit." Lev 25:35-37 And thus it is inappropriate to charge interest when lending to the poor. We can clearly see the negative effect of this on a global scale concerning the World Bank "loaning" money to poor countries only to enslave them to debt. So when one lends to those who aren't destitute charging unnecessarily high interest, they are doing the same - enslaving others to debt. God apparently hates that. It demeans and robs one's fellowman, and so also does accepting a bribe against the innocent. If people would simply free themselves from the love of money they wouldn't be involved in this kind of stuff.

Another significant verse which explicitly reveals the kind of people likes to be around is  Isaiah 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One saysó he who lives forever, whose name is holy: "I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."

People that are teachable and willing the repent. People that hear God's word and tremble, taking it seriously and thinking in terms of application. Having the humility to be convicted of sin, and the having the fear of God to repent. While rarely found in society, these are the kind of people God prefers to live with.

Discussion Questions

What is it to have a blameless life, and is it achievable?
In contrast to speaking truth in one's heart, what kinds of lies do people tell themselves?
What are subtle forms of slander?
What is it about despising vile people that God appreciates?
What are ways in which we can honor those who fear the Lord?
When a people break their own promise when they run into unforeseen circumstances, what does that tell us about such people?
What constitutes "usury" and how should we go about lending money in a way that pleases God?
What are examples in scripture of people contrite and lowly in spirit that God liked to be around?
What are examples of Jesus' teachings concerning God's valuing the humble and contrite?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Dec 29,2023