June 5, 2005

The Company In Whom God Delights

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Miscellaneous

Transcript

The Company In Whom God Delights

Psalm 15:1-5
Sunday, June 6, 2005
Pastor Randy Smith



According to John MacArthur, "Of all the attributes of God, holiness is the one that most uniquely describes Him and in reality is a summarization of all His other attributes. …Holiness is the attribute of God that binds all the others together." Stephen Charnock in his classic on the character of God said, "If every attribute of the Deity were a distinct member, holiness would be the soul to animate them." Considering these remarks, it is no wonder Jonathan Edwards could conclude, "A true love of God must begin with a delight in his holiness, and not with a delight in any other attribute; for no other attribute is truly lovely without this."

The holiness of God refers to the fact that God is set-apart from His creation. He is unlike any other created being due to His completeness (wholeness) and infinite perfection. The holiness of God: Ridiculed by the world, rejected by the carnal, yet revered and respected by the true worshipper.

We can't think of God's holiness without recalling the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Ac. 5:1-11). Their only fault was to misrepresent the amount they were donating to the church. After all, they did sell their property and make a substantial contribution to the Lord's work. No doubt a greater sacrifice than others made in the Jerusalem church. So what if they kept a little of the proceeds for themselves and let others believe everything was going to the church. I mean, did God really have to drop them dead on the spot for some minimal deception? Would you say the punishment "slightly" exceeded the crime?

Although God does not act this way toward every sin, He wanted to teach His people in succeeding generations that He will be treated as holy by those who approach Him in worship. God is serious. The response to God's holiness in this account? Acts 5:11, "And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things."

A thousand years earlier King David, along with thirty thousand chosen men, planned to move the Ark of the Lord from the house of Abinadab back to Jerusalem. However, when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled and Uzzah reached out to stabilize the Ark. The Scripture says, "The anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah and God struck him down there for his irreverence" (2 Sam. 6:7; cf. 1 Chron. 13:10).

But the Holy Ark, the symbol of God's dwelling place was about to fall into the mud! Was Uzzah to just stand by passively and watch this take place? Killed on the spot for merely reaching out and trying to help?

Uzzah's actions, as innocent as they appeared, were a direct violation of God's law and the consequences as prescribed for this offense was death according to Numbers 4:15. Despite Uzzah's good intentions, God will not allow not deviation regarding His holiness. He will be respected. The response to God's holiness in this account? 2 Samuel 6:9, "So David was afraid of the Lord that day" (1 Chron. 13:12).

Many scholars believe that Psalm 15 was written in conjunction with this account. After the death of Uzzah, David refused to move the Ark any further (2 Sam. 6:10). He came to see his own sinfulness against the backdrop of God's blazing holiness. He felt useless. He felt distant from God. He felt unable to approach His Maker.

Therefore He wrote in verse 1 of Psalm 15, "O Lord, who may abide in Your tent?" God's tent was a technical term for the tabernacle. It was the place in the Old Covenant times where God revealed His visible glory. It was the place where people would go to have their most intimate fellowship with God.

Along the same lines he also said in verse 1, "Who may dwell on Your holy hill?" The holy hill was in Jerusalem the place where David had originally determined to take the Ark. The holy hill was Mt. Zion where the temple would eventually be constructed.

Although we don't worship God in one location any more (Jn. 4:21), we can maintain David's heart by rewording his questions to ask: Who is worthy to have holy fellowship with You? Who with sin can come before You in worship? Who can enter your presence and live to talk about it?

Do you ever feel this way beloved, when you like David, really get a grip on the holiness of God? I believe we often need to sit back and ask ourselves what does God expect of me as I enter His holy presence for worship? Am I as serious about this business as He?

I have especially chosen Psalm 15 because this morning we are celebrating the Lord's Supper. The present significance of the Lord's Supper is communion or fellowship with Christ, hence the term "communion service." The believer is seeking to meet Christ in a unique way and have intimate fellowship with Him.

It is interesting to note that the Bible explicitly commands us to engage in a process of self-examination before we partake in the elements (the juice and the bread), lest we like Ananias and Sapphira and Uzzah, eat and drink judgment to ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28-29). But why? Because it would be hypocrisy to pretend we are in communion with the Holy One while actually cherishing and refusing to repent of known sin in our hearts (Adapted from: Boice, James. Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 603).

In respect for God's holiness, David wrote Psalm 15 to describe the man or woman who can enter the presence of our thrice-holy Lord. As we celebrate Communion, Psalm 15 is the perfect backdrop to examine our own lives, lest we approach God with irreverence in an unworthy manner this morning.

In verse 1 David asked the rhetorical question, "Who is permitted to come into Your presence?" Then in verses 2 through 5, David answers that question by providing 10 qualifications of the one who is permitted to approach God. They are neither rituals nor any other displays of outward religiosity. They all involve God's utter concern for our moral character, our integrity, our holiness. Since God is holy, He expects holiness from those who seek to enter His presence.

Some have said that these 10 qualifications are chosen to match the 10 Commandments, the standard of God's righteousness. The average Jew and the average Christian might say they never violate the 10 Commandments (which according to the teaching of Christ would be incorrect), but these qualifications, while not exhaustive, hit a little closer to home. They provide us with the ultimate Q and A for self-examination leading to acceptable worship. Commenting on Psalm 15, Charles Spurgeon said, "Let us betake ourselves to prayer and self-examination, for this Psalm is as fire for gold, and as a furnace for silver. Can we endure its testing power" (Spurgeon, Treasury of David, p. 178)?

1. THE ACTIONS OF THE RIGHTEOUS

Let us begin the process of self-examination by considering these ten qualifications together. For the economy of words, I will stay with the masculine gender as it is used in Psalm 15, but we all know these traits apply to men and women of all ages alike.

1. He Walks With Integrity

First of all, verse 2 says, "He…walks with integrity."

Our walk is a synonym for our daily conduct and our integrity can be defined as the righteous conduct that permeates our lives. The verse is calling for ongoing righteous living.

Integrity is overarching, as it included the other nine qualifications that follow. It speaks of a blameless life, a life without hypocrisy or duplicity. A man of integrity makes it his normal routine to live above reproach. His actions are consistent with his beliefs, regardless of his company or his environment. What he says and does is at one with who he is. And who he is, is at one with God's heart. We are not talking about perfection, but we are talking about an attitude that continually desires to please God, regardless of the requirement and regardless of the sacrifice.

When we think of a man of integrity we picture one who says what he means and means what he says. He keeps his word at all costs. He is faithful in the big things as well as the small things. He holds firm to his convictions. He admits, rather than justifies his wrongdoing. He is fair and honest and upright.

2. He Works Righteousness

Second, still in verse 2, the one who approaches the Lord must also work righteousness.

Now these two terms ("work" and "righteous"), especially in Reformed circles seem like a contradiction. We all know that we are declared righteous by faith and not by works. However even the most staunch Reformers will admit that we were justified by faith alone, but the faith that justifies is never alone. In other words, righteous deeds always follow.

According to Martin Luther, "We are not made righteous by doing righteous deeds; but when we have been made righteous we do righteous deeds."

The man who approaches God must be marked by righteous deeds that give evidence of his conversion. As Our Lord said, His servants will be known by the fruits of righteousness they produce (Jn. 15:2) and their delight to follow His commandments (Jn. 14:15). It is only logical to ask the question, "If we have no interest in seeking to be like our Savior, why should we have any interest in approaching Him. And if we are not like Him, why should he find our worship acceptable.

3. He Speaks Truth

Third, and you can see these qualifications getting more specific, the one who approaches God must speak truth in his heart.

Since Jesus is "the truth" (Jn. 14:6) and Satan is the "father of lies" (Jn. 8:44), God is extremely committed to His followers being consumed with the truth.

He delights in the one who speaks honestly, speaks "God's truth" and not what he believes to be true, speaks the truth in love (Eph. 4:15) and speaks words that are reliable and dependable. The one who avoids exaggeration, plagiarism, the falsification of records and white lies. The one who avoids double meanings, hidden agendas, evasions, flatteries and deceptions since all these mimic the evil one.

Proverbs 12:22a, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord" (cf. Pro. 6:16-19). But, three verses earlier we read, "truthful lips will be established forever" (Pro. 12:19).

Furthermore, notice this clause in verse 2 specifies that he "speaks truth in his heart" (emphasis added). God is not only concerned with our outward actions. As you know, His primary concern is our heart. After all, unless we are hypocrites, our outward expressions are the overflow of our heart. "(The) mouth speaks from that which fills the heart" (Lk. 6:45b). In this verse, God is asking for a person's lips to be in accordance with a person's heart. He is looking for truthful speech that flows from a truthful heart.

4. He Does Not Slander

Fourth, verse 3, He does not slander.

The sin of slander is very similar to the sin of gossip. Slander is speaking negatively of another, whether the information is true or untrue, behind the person's back. It is a sin stated over and over in the Scriptures. It causes irreparable damage to a person's reputation, divides churches and is contrary to the loving attitude Christ expects us to have for all people, even our enemies. It is no wonder the Lord finds this sin detestable.

A. B. Simpson was one man who knew how seriously the Lord takes slanderers. He said, "I would rather play with forked lightning, or take in hand living wires with their fiery current, than speak a reckless word against any servant of Christ, or idly repeat the slanderous darts which thousands of Christians are hurling on others, to the hurt of their own souls and bodies."

I believe it was Augustine who had a sign in his dining room that said slanderers are not welcome at his table. The Lord has given us His sign in His Word. Slanderers are not welcome at His table of communion either.

5. He Does No Evil

Fifth, verse 5 says the true worshipper "does (no) evil to his neighbor."

This is a general category that encompasses slander and any other evil act we can do to another. Whether it is a sin of the tongue or an act of malice or anything that causes pain. The righteous person avoids anything that will cause misery in the life of another. He follows the "Golden Rule" to "treat others the same way you want them to treat you" (Lk. 6:31). He follows the second Great Commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mt. 22:39).

6. He Does Not Reproach His Friends

Qualifications 6 through 10 all fall under the category of doing evil to another. They outline some specific and sinful ways we can hurt our neighbor. All of these are offensive and detestable to God.

Verse 3 (sixth on our list) says he does not take up reproach against his friends. The righteous man zealously seeks to promote and praise another. He does not receive gossip and slander. He does not look for the faults in another. He sees and believes the best. He neither initiates nor rejoices in the reproach of his associates because he majors on another's strengths. He seeks to be their advocate and not their adversary.

7. He Rightly Evaluates Others

Number seven is found in verse 4. "In (his) eyes a reprobate is despised, but (he) honors those who fear the Lord."

The righteous man is able to see people through the eyes of God. He loves all people and offers honor when honor is due, but esteems the character of those who fear the Lord. Far from praising and supporting God's enemies (whether they be across the street or in Hollywood or in athletics or in politics), he has an eye for the godly and prefers them with special respect. The righteous man sees the folly of the unrighteous, but esteems those who fear the Lord. The people who are special in the heart of the Lord, are special in his heart as well.

8. He Keeps His Word

The eighth qualification is found in verse 4. "He swears to his own hurt and does not change."

He remains true to his word, even if it comes at a great expense to himself. Like the character of God, a righteous man's words are immutable and trustworthy. He will honor his vows, keep his commitments and fulfill his promises.

9. He Will Not Lend Money at Interest

The ninth qualification: Verse 5, "He does not put out his money at interest."

Not only is the righteous man generous with his money, but he will also lend it to others in need without charging them interest. In other words, he will not exploit another's hardship for his own personal gain (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-36; Dt. 23:19).

10. He Does Not Receive Bribes

Finally, the tenth qualification, verse 5, "(He) does he take a bribe against the innocent" (Ex. 23:8; Dt. 16:19).

He is concerned with justice. How could anyone defraud the innocent and then expect to have fellowship with the "Righteous Judge?"

1. He Walks With Integrity

2. He Works Righteousness

3. He Speaks Truth

4. He Does Not Slander

5. He Does No Evil

6. He Does Not Reproach His Friends

7. He Rightly Evaluates Others

8. He Keeps His Word

9. He Will Not Lend Money at Interest

10. He Does Not Receive Bribes

(Note: After considering these qualifications, we can see how some have concluded that the epistle of James is a commentary/exposition of this Psalm.)

2. THE ADVANTAGES OF THE RIGHTEOUS

So what will come of the person who abides in God's expectations, these 10 Commandments, which are clearly outlined in Psalm 15?

Well, first of all, the concluding clause of verse 5 says, "He who does these things will never be shaken." Such a person who follows God's standards by heeding His Word is promised victory over the adversities of life. "No storm shall tear him from his foundations, drag him from his anchorage, or uproot him from his place" (Spurgeon, Treasury, p. 178). Was this not also the teaching of Jesus? "Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock" (Mt. 7:24-25). The righteous one who builds on the words of Christ will never be shaken according to verse 5.

Furthermore, as verse 1 indicated, this person will be permitted into the Lord's presence. God's standard for fellowship is high. If we want to be welcomed by the Lord, we have to live like the Lord. Spurgeon said, "We must be like Him, or we shall never be with Him" (Treasury, p. 178). John Calvin summarized this Psalm by saying, "The meaning of (Psalm 15), to express it in a few words, is this, that those only have access to God who…live a holy life" (1:205). In Leviticus 19:2 our Lord said it best. "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."

But we look at this list and say, "If that is God's standard and we are honest with ourselves, who qualifies? We find ourselves back in David's camp with the heart that inspired him to write the Psalm. We see God's holiness and our sinfulness (see Psalm 14:2-3). We cry out with him, "O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill" (Psm. 15:1)? And we conclude - no one!

Back in 2 Samuel the holiness of God brought a paralyzing fear upon David. After Uzzah was struck dead, David was "unwilling to move the Ark" any further (2 Sam. 6:10). So he left the Ark in the home of Obed-edom and he departed.

But something very wonderful happened. The Lord was blessing the house of Obed-edom on account of the Ark. When David heard that God can be approached and is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Heb. 11:6), the text says he retrieved the Ark and brought it to Jerusalem "with gladness" (2 Sam. 6:12).

But how can a holy God bless the sinner? David discovered the secret for entering God's presence. The text says that when they went just six paces "he sacrificed an ox and a fatling" (2 Sam. 6:13). The Scripture declares, "Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (for sin)" (Heb. 9:22; cf. Lev. 17:11).

Today, with the elements set before us, we celebrate the sacrifice not of an animal, but of God Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ to take away our imperfections. He has removed all our sins and given to us all His righteousness. Do you know how? Because He fulfilled Psalm 15 and therefore has qualified to enter God's presence and become our substitute. When He died on the holy hill called Calvary, the dividing curtain that prevented us access to the dwelling place of God (the Holy of Holies) was torn in two from top to bottom (Mt. 27:51). Through the blood of Christ our sins are covered and we now have the ability to approach a holy God.

Philip Graham Ryken said it well. "Once it was God's holiness that separated us from God, the holiness of His being. Now it is God's holiness that brings us to God, the holiness of the perfect sacrifice Jesus offered for our sins on the cross. God displayed His holiness by making us holy through His holy Son" (When You Pray, 2000, Crossway Books, p. 72).

So as David exclaimed in verse 1, who can enter into God's holy presence? We answer, only the one who was made holy by accepting the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on their behalf through faith and repentance. As Spurgeon, once again, said, "Without the wedding dress of Christ's righteousness we have no right to sit at the banquet of communion" (Spurgeon, Treasury)

However, the positional righteousness of Christ in our lives does not negate the practical righteousness of Christ in our lives. On the contrary, it should promote it! For those who truly belong to God, the Holy Spirit is forever seeking to make them more like Jesus. We are not talking about perfection in this life, but we are talking about a life among His children that will manifest a character in line with the qualifications described in Psalm 15.

We are all in the process of spiritual growth, but God will not tolerate one indifferent to His holiness to come before Him in spiritual worship (Psm. 5:4-5). Therefore we examine our lives against His Holy Word. We confess our sins. If we are unaware of any unrepentant sin, we boldly partake in Communion with our holy Lord. But if we are not serious about repentance, if we are not serious about His holy requirements, if we choose to remain in our sins, we allow the elements to pass by, lest we eat and drink judgment to ourselves (1 Cor. 11:29). Lest we be like those in the Corinthian church who were weak and sick and dead because they did not judge themselves rightly (1 Cor. 11:30-31).

God is holy and He has required those who approach Him to recognize His holiness (Heb. 12:14) by being clothed in the holy sacrifice of Jesus Christ and then living a life in the power of the Holy Spirit that gives evidence of relationship and union with Him.


other sermons in this series