Lord, who shall abide in your tabernacle? who shall dwell in your holy hill?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Abide . . . dwell.—Properly, as in margin, sojourn like a passing guest, and dwell like a resident. But here the two terms are apparently used as synonyms. It was the natural form in which to put the question at Jerusalem, where God had His abode in the Temple, and we may paraphrase it thus: “What constitutes a true and genuine citizen of the kingdom of God?” The form of Wordsworth’s poem, “Who is the happy warrior? who is he,” &c, was possibly suggested by the Psalm, and it may be read with advantage by the side of it.Psalm 15:1. Lord, who shall, &c. — The psalmist proposes this question to God, that the answer, coming from the Supreme Lord of earth and heaven, the Lawgiver and Judge of men and angels, might have the greater authority and influence on men’s consciences. Who shall abide — Hebrew מי יגור, mi jagur, who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle? — In thy church here, and be a true member thereof, and an acceptable worshipper of thee therein? Who shall dwell — Hebrew, ישׁכן, jishchon, shall reside, and have his constant and perpetual mansion, in thy holy hill of Zion, often put for heaven, where is the true tabernacle not made with hands, Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:11; Revelation 21:3. Who shall be permitted and enabled so to worship thee in thy church on earth, and enjoy and improve the privileges thereof, as to dwell with thee in heaven for ever hereafter? The reader will easily observe, that the psalmist alludes to the hill of Zion, to the tabernacle of God which was thereon, and to the character of the priest who should officiate in that tabernacle. And he will remember that “all these were figures of a celestial Jerusalem, a spiritual Zion, a true tabernacle, and an eternal priest. To the great originals, therefore, we must transfer our ideas, and consider the inquiry as made after Him who should fix his resting-place on the heavenly mount, and exercise his unchangeable priesthood in the temple not made with hands. And since the disciples of this new and great high-priest become righteous in him, and are by the Spirit conformed to his image, the character which essentially and inherently belongs only to him will derivatively belong to them also, who must follow his steps below, if they would reign with him above.” — Horne. Hebrews 11:9. It should not be inferred, however, that it is meant here that the residence with God would be "temporary." The idea of permanency is fully expressed in the other member of the sentence, and the language here is only such as was customary in speaking of the righteous - language derived from the fact that in early times men dwelt in tents rather than in permanent habitations.
Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? - Zion, regarded as the dwelling-place of God, and the type of heaven - the eternal abode of the Most High. See the note at Psalm 2:6. The question is equivalent to asking, who is qualified to dwell with God? who may properly be regarded as his friend? who has a title to his favor? who is truly pious? By us the same question would be put in another form, though implying the same thing: Who is qualified to become a member of the church; who has evidence of true conversion and real piety? who is he who is prepared for heaven?
Ps 15:1-5. Those who are fit for communion with God may be known by a conformity to His law, which is illustrated in various important particulars.
1. abide—or, "sojourn" (compare Ps 5:4), where it means under God's protection here, as (Ps 23:6, 27:4, 6) communion.
tabernacle—seat of the ark (2Sa 6:17), the symbol of God's presence.
1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
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 chargedst 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 snail 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. THE ARGUMENT
who shall dwell in thy holy hill? the same is here intended as in the preceding clause; the allusion is to Mount Zion, whither the ark of the Lord was brought in David's time, and on one part of which the temple was afterwards built: and the church may be compared to this hill, for its eminence and visibility in the world; for the holiness which God has put upon it, and for the immovableness of it; for though like, a tabernacle it may be carried from place to place, yet it is like an hill that can never be removed out of the world; it is built on a sure foundation, the Rock of ages. Now the purport of these questions is, who is a proper person to be an inhabitant of Zion? or to be a member of the church of God? the answer is in the following verses.Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. More exactly:
Jehovah, who shall sojourn in thy tent?
Who shall dwell in thy holy mountain?
Who is worthy to be received as Jehovah’s guest, to enjoy His protection and hospitality, to dwell in the place which He has consecrated by His Presence? Cp. Psalm 5:4. It is not as a mere form of speech that the Psalmist addresses Jehovah. By this appeal he at once places himself and his readers in immediate relation to Jehovah. The question is asked of Him, and the answer is given as in His Presence.
In thy tent might be wholly metaphorical and mean no more than in thy abode, but here where it stands in parallelism to thy holy mountain, it is natural to see a reference to ‘the tent’ which David pitched for the Ark on Mount Zion. Cp. Psalm 27:5-6. ‘Sojourn’ commonly denotes a temporary stay, but not necessarily so (Psalm 61:4); the special point here lies in the protection which the guest in Oriental countries claims from his host. “The Arabs give the title of jâr allâh to one who resides in Mecca beside the Caaba.” Robertson Smith’s Religion of the Semites, p. 77.
Not merely ministers at the sanctuary or even worshippers are meant, but all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were often too prone to assume that God’s presence among them was a guarantee of security, instead of recognising that it demanded holiness on their part (Micah 3:11). Spiritually, the question concerns all who would draw near to God.Verse 1. - Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? rather, Who shall sojourn? Whom wilt thou accept as a sojourner in thy tent, to be near to thee, and consort with thee? Who shall dwell (i.e. whom wilt thou permit to dwell) in thy holy hill? The "tabernacle" and the "holy hill" of Zion are, of course, not to be understood literally. They are figurative expressions, pointing to the Divine presence and favour, and the blessedness of abiding in them. 2 Kings 9:30 (cf. Niph. Judges 5:28, and frequently), and for God's looking down from heaven upon the earth, Psalm 102:20, and frequently; and it is cognate and synonymous with השׁגּיח, Psalm 33:13, Psalm 33:14; cf. moreover, Sol 2:9. The perf. is used in the sense of the perfect only insofar as the divine survey is antecedent to its result as given in Psalm 14:3. Just as השׁהיתוּ reminds one of the history of the Flood, so does לראות of the history of the building of the tower of Babel, Genesis 11:5, cf. Psalm 18:21. God's judgment rests upon a knowledge of the matter of fact, which is represented in such passages after the manner of men. God's all-seeing, all-piercing eyes scrutinise the whole human race. Is there one who shows discernment in thought and act, one to whom fellowship with God is the highest good, and consequently that after which he strives? - this is God's question, and He delights in such persons, and certainly none such would escape His longing search. On את־אלהים, τὸν Θεόν, vid., Ges. 117, 2.
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