Psalm 15
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
It matters little when this psalm was written, or by whom. Although there is no reason for denying its Davidic authorship, still its contents are manifestly and equally precious, whoever was the inspired penman, and whenever he penned these words. Manifestly, the psalm is a product of Judaism. The Mosaic legislation had its ritual, but it was not ritualistic. There was not only an altar of sacrifice, but also a pillar of testimony and the tables of the Law; and to leave out either the sacrificial or the ethical part of the Hebrew faith would give as the residuum, only a mutilated fragment of it. This psalm is not one of those which in itself contains a new revelation, but one the inspiration of which is due to a revelation already received. The forms of expression in the first verse indicate this with sufficient clearness; the entire psalm suggests to us three lines of truth for pulpit exposition.

I. THERE IS A HOME FOR THE SOUL IN GOD. We do not regard the question in the first verse as one of despair, but simply as one of inquiry. It suggests that there is a sphere wherein men may dwell with God, and asks who are the men who can and do live in this sphere. The inquiry is addressed to "Jehovah," the redeeming God of Israel, who by this name had made himself known to the chosen people as their God - the Loving, the Eternal, the Changeless One. Moreover, there had been a tabernacle made, and afterwards the palace of the great King was erected on Mount Zion, the holy hill. "This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it." And inasmuch as this was the spot where God dwelt with men, to the devout soul the happiest place was that spot where he could meet with God; and if, perchance, he could there abide, not only to sojourn as for a night, but even to take up his permanent abode, he would realize the very ideal of good. "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." But in the later form of scriptural thought it is not only in this place or that that the yearning spirit can find God, but everywhere; yea, God himself is the soul's home - a home neither enclosed by walls, nor restricted in space, nor bounded by time. And we know what are the features of that home - it is one of righteousness, of a purity which allows no stain; it is one of mercy, in which all the occupants have made a covenant with God by sacrifice; it is one of closest fellowship, in which there may be a perpetual interchange of communion between the soul and the great eternal God. And when we remember that on the one hand, God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, and that on the other hand, even all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, it must always be a wonder of wonders that the sinner should ever be allowed to find a home in God; and never can it be inappropriate to ask the question with which the psalm begins, "Lord, dost thou give it to all men to find their rest in thee? If not, who are these happy ones?" "Who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?"

II. ONLY SOME SOULS FIND GOD A HOME FOR THEM. The rest of the psalm answers the question which is raised at the outset of it. Inasmuch as the very phraseology of the psalm is built upon and assumes the divinely appointed institutions of priesthood, sacrifice, penitence, prayer, and pardon, it is needful only to remark in passing that the man who dwells in God's holy hill is the one who accepts the divinely revealed plan of mercy and pardon through an appointed sacrifice. But the fact that by God's mercy we are permitted to base the edifice of our life on such a foundation does by no means dispense with the necessity or lessen the importance of our erecting such edifice with scrupulous exactness according to the Divine requirements. The two parts of revealed religion cannot be disjoined now, any more than of old; the sacrificial and ethical departments must be equally recognized. And we arc here called upon to study a Scripture portraiture of a virtue which God will approve, by seeing how a man who lives in God will demean himself before the world.

1. His walk is upright. His entire life and bearing will be of unswerving integrity. Bishop Perowne renders the word "uprightly," "perfectly," which in the scriptural sense is equivalent to "sincerely," with an absolutely incorruptible aim at the glory of God.

2. His deeds are right. They correspond with the simplicity and integrity of his life's aim and intent.

3. His heart is true to his words. He does not say one thing and mean another, nor will he cajole another by false pretences.

4. He guards his tongue. He will not "backbite" or "slander:" the verb is from a root signifying "to go about," and conveys the idea of one going about from house to house, spreading an evil report of a neighbour.

5. He checks the tongues of others. He will not take up a reproach against his neighbour. Retailers of gossip and scandal will find their labour lost on him.

6. He abstains from injuring a friend - by deeds of wrong.

7. He estimates people according to a moral standard, not according to their wealth. A base person is rejected, however rich. A man who fears the Lord is honoured, however poor.

8. He is true to his promise, though it may cost him much, even more than he at first supposed.

9. He is conscientious in the use of what he has. He will not be one to bite, to devour, or to oppress another by greed of gain, nor will he take a bribe to trick a guileless man. He will be clear as light, bright as day, true as steel, firm as rock. While resting on the promises of God as a ground of hope, he will follow the Divine precepts as the rule of his life. As Bishop Perowne admirably remarks, "Faith in God and spotless integrity may not be sundered. Religion does not veil or excuse petty dishonesties. Love to God is only then worthy the name, when it is the life and bond of every social virtue." A holy man said on his death-bed, "Next to my hope in Christ, my greatest comfort is that I never wronged any one in business."

III. FROM THEIR HOME IN GOD such SOULS CAN NEVER BE DISLODGED. (Ver. 5, "He that doeth these things shall never be moved.") The man is one who lives up to the Divine requirements under the gospel.

"Yet when his holiest works are done,
His soul depends on grace alone." Even so. And he shall not be disappointed. Note, in passing, it is not his excellence that ensures this security; but the grace of God honors a man whose faith and works accord with his will.

1. No convulsions can disturb such a man. His rest in Divine love is one which is secure against any catastrophe whatever (Psalm 46:1, 2; Romans 8:38, 39).

2. Time is on the side of such a one. For both the graces of faith and obedience will strengthen with age; while the Being who is his Stronghold is the same "yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." Such characters, moreover, can never get out of date.

3. No discoveries in science nor in any department can dim the lustre of such a life. To trust in the great eternal God and to aspire to his likeness, is surely that of which no advance in human thought can ever make us ashamed.

4. The faithful God will never desert such a one. Whoever clings to God in faith, love, and obedience will never find his love unreciprocated or his trust unrecompensed.

5. The promises made to each a one will never fail. They are all Yea and Amen in Christ; they are sealed by "the blood of the everlasting covenant." And hence they who repose their trust in them can never be moved. In conclusion, the preacher may well warn against any attempt to divorce these two departments of character - trust and action.

1. Without trust in God there can be no right action.

2. Without the aim at right action we have no right to trust in God. - C.

In all ages there has been a sense of imperfection, and a longing and a cry for the perfect in human character. The ethical philosophers of Greece and Rome have given us their views; Christian teachers have aimed to set forth, in poetry and prose, their ideals of perfection; but it may be questioned whether anywhere we can find a truer or more beautiful portrait than this by the ancient Jewish poet. It has been said, "Christian chivalry has not drawn a brighter." And we might even dare to say that it compares well with the character of the perfect man as depicted by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. No doubt there are traits in the character that are peculiar to the times, and things are put differently in some respects from what they would have been in the light of the gospel; but we cannot contemplate the picture except with wonder and delight. In heart and tongue, in deed and life, as a member of society and as an individual, the man of this psalm is without reproach.

I. HIS INSPIRATION IS FROM ABOVE. It is the life within that determines character. Abraham walked before God, and therefore was exhorted to aim at perfection. The "tabernacle" is not wholly a figure of speech, but represents the meeting-place with God. For us Christ is the "tabernacle." Here we ever find light and strength. "Our life is hid with Christ in God."

II. HIS CHARACTER IS MOULDED AFTER THE HIGHEST PATTERN. (Vers. 2, 3.) The law of righteousness is his rule. Conscience is not enough; the lives of the good are not enough: there is more needed. The will of God as revealed to us is our true rule of faith and practice. There is a certain order observed - first, the person must be acceptable by entire surrender to God; then he must work by righteousness; lastly, his word must be truth. So God had regard first to Abel, and then to his offering (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:5).

III. HIS SOCIAL LIFE IS MARKED BY THE NOBLEST VIRTUES. (Vers. 3-5.) Some have counted here ten or eleven particulars; but it is better to regard the spirit than the letter. The chief things are truth, justice, and benevolence, while with these there is humility of spirit and charity towards all men. All this is brought out the more vividly by contrast with the selfish and worldly life of the wicked.

IV. HIS HAPPY DESTINY IS SURE AS THE THRONE OF THE ETERNAL. (Ver. 5.) There are things that can be moved; they have no stability or permanence. There are other things which cannot be moved; they are true as God is true, and stable as God is stable, with whom there is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning." This holds good of religion and the religious life (Hebrews 12:27, 28). There are people who have no fixed principles. They cannot be trusted. St. James compares them to the waves of the sea - driven with the wind and tossed (James 1:6). But the man who trusts in God can say, "My heart is fixed;" and of such it is true - he "shall never be moved" (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:56-58; Acts 20:22-24; Acts 21:13). - W.F.

This psalm is supposed by some to have been written on the removal of the ark to Zion. "As it is not only in David's time that the symbol has been placed above the thing signified, and a superstitious efficacy attached to the externals of worship, this psalm has an equal value in every age in keeping before the mind the great lesson that sanctity of life and truth of heart are the absolute essentials of a spiritual religion." How can we dwell truly and in the most intimate abiding fellowship with God? That is the question which the psalm answers; and the answer is - Access to God lies open to none but his pure worshippers. Two answers are given, each answer having both a positive and a negative form.


1. Positively. (Ver. 2.)

(1) He walketh uprightly; i.e. with integrity, with an undivided purpose of heart and mind. He does not try "to serve two masters"

(2) He worketh righteousness, or does the will of God. Not his own will, or the desires of the passions and appetites. He loves and does the right.

(3) He speaks the truth in his heart. Speaks the truth because he loves it, not with unwilling constraint. He speaks it in his heart, because it dwells there, before he utters it with his tongue.

2. Negatively. (Ver. 3.) He is not one who injures others

(1) by word; or

(2) by deed; or

(3) by listening to and propagating slander.

II. SECOND ANSWER. (Vers. 4, 5.)

1. Positively. (Ver. 4.)

(1) He turns away from the company of evil persons because he has no sympathy with them. He con-remus them.

(2) He honours the good in every way that he can honour them - defending, applauding, imitating them.

(3) He keeps sacred his word or his oath. "Not a casuist, who sets himself to find a pretext for breaking his word when it is inconvenient to keep it."

2. Negatively. (Ver. 5.)

(1) Not one who loves usury, but is willing to help the poor from a generous heart (Exodus 22:25).

(2) Does not take bribes in the administration of justice. Incorruptibly just. "Such a man may not take up his dwelling in the earthly courts of the Lord; but he shall so live in the presence of God, and under the care of God, that his feet shall be upon a rock." Would that all Christians answered to this picture! - S.

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