Thursday, January 15, 2009

Selected Psalms: Psalm 15

I was reading the psalms of the day this morning and found something beautiful. (I may have mentioned “the psalms of the day” before. It’s a reading plan that I got from Dr. Donald Whitney. There are five psalms for each day. The first psalm of the day corresponds to the date. Today is the 15th, so Psalm 15 was the first psalm of the day. You then add 30 to that to get the second psalm. So, the second psalm today was Psalm 45. To get the 3rd, add 30 to that. To get the 4th, add 30 to that. To get the 4th, add 30 to that. Since Psalm 119 is so long, you read it alone on the 31st of the month. With this plan, you can read through all the psalms in one month.) I found a wonderful picture of “already-not yet” sanctification in the psalms.

We’ve spent the last several Sunday mornings dealing with the issue of sanctification, which is the process whereby I become less like the old self and more like Christ. More than once, we approached the concept of “already, not yet.” There are elements of the kingdom of God that in one sense have already been accomplished or fulfilled. And those same elements in another sense have not yet been accomplished or fulfilled. Sanctification is one of those elements.

There is evidence in the New Testament that believers are already sanctified. In 1 Cor 1:2, Paul addresses the recipients of his letter: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus…” If you are familiar with the book of 1 Corinthians, you know that the church there could be characterized as anything but sanctified in their conduct. They were divided, they were sexually immoral, they tolerated sin in the body, their times of communion looked more like an eating and drinking contest…they had a long way to go on their journey toward holiness. And yet, Paul refers to them as those sanctified in Christ Jesus. It’s the prepositional phrase that makes the point. Their position in Christ is the sense in which their sanctification had already been accomplished. Galatians 3:27 says, For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. When God looked on the Corinthian church, He saw only the righteousness of Christ clothing them. Therefore, He counted them already sanctified, though in their conduct, they were not yet sanctified.

Now, Psalm 15 is a daunting read.

15:1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

Who can be in the presence of the Lord? What kind of person can stand in His presence? The answer the psalmist gives to that question is both challenging and disheartening at the same time.

2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

I don’t know about you, but as I read through those verses, I find myself missing the mark on several counts. I tend to do a little better the further I get in the Psalm. I’m okay on v5 – I’ve never charged anyone interest and I’ve never taken a bribe against the innocent.

v4 is tougher. When he says, who swears to his own hurt and does not change, he means that he keeps his promises even if it ends up being very costly to him. I know I’ve broken promises. I’m guessing you probably have, too. v3 really hurts – who does not slander with his tongue. We talked about that last Sunday. Who hasn’t spoken evil against someone? Who hasn’t done evil against a neighbor? I suppose v3 counts everyone out.

But v2 is devastating. He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart. He who walks blamelessly. The word translated “blamelessly” means complete. It carries the idea of moral perfection. So who can be in the presence of the Lord? The one who lives a perfectly moral life.

It’s devastating, but at the same time it creates in me the desire to get there. I know I’m nowhere close to that standard, but I want to be in the presence of the Lord. I want to please Him. I want to be like Him. Reading Psalm 15 leaves me profoundly aware of how far short I am of being worthy of God’s love and attention and it leaves me hungering for holiness. I am not yet sanctified.

But the second psalm today was Psalm 45. It is a messianic psalm, which means that it speaks of Christ. We know that beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a messianic psalm because Hebrews 1:8-9 quotes Psalm 45:6-7, applying it to Jesus.

Psalm 45:6-7 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.


When he refers to the scepter of uprightness, it means that the one who holds the scepter is upright. Uprightness and blamelessness (in Ps 15:2) are used synonymously in the Old Testament. v7a - you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness – echoes the same idea as v4 in Psalm 15 – in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD.

So, we can ask again the questions in Psalm 15:1: O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? The answer is that there is only One who is worthy: Jesus Christ. He is the only One who in Himself meets the standard of righteousness described in Psalm 15. I, in my own strength, in my own righteousness, in my own conduct, in my own merit can never meet that standard in this life. I am not yet sanctified.

But praise God for the truth of Galatians 3:27:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

By grace through faith, I have been baptized into Christ. I have clothed myself with Christ. I am already sanctified. I may dwell in His holy hill.

Praise God for Jesus Christ, the righteous (1 John 2:1). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

May we strive toward a righteousness in our conduct that matches our righteousness in Christ, desiring more than all else to please the God in whose tent we dwell by His grace.

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