O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
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, 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.
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.
This honour have all His saints.
I. WHAT HONOUR IN FACT WAS PAID TO THEM AFTER THEIR DECEASE.
1. From the records of the primitive Church it appears that, whilst the number of converts in each place of worship would admit of it, the names of all who had departed this life in communion with their brethren were particularly recited with praise to God, and offered with great solemnity at the altar in the Eucharistical service.
2. As the increase of numbers soon rendered this usage impracticable, a general oblation of them was substituted in the room of it.(1) The general oblation of praise to God for all His saints departed we make upon a peculiar festival, marked out by our Church for this pious purpose. Even for the glorious company of the apostles, for the goodly fellowship of the prophets, for the noble army of martyrs; and indeed for the holy Church which hath been throughout all the world.(2) Our more particular acknowledgments of praise to Him for the illustrious examples and pious labours of His most eminent and renowned champions we reserve (as Christians did in the time of ) for the yearly return of their respective martyrdoms.(3) By both we plainly symbolize with the practice of the Church in her earliest and purest ages.
II. WHAT OF THIS KIND IS, OR IS NOT, PROPER TO BE PAID THEM.
1. The limitations to be set to it.(1) The saints departed are no fit objects of our prayer to them, are entitled to no sort of religious worship from us (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 22:8, 9).(2) But may we not be permitted to ask the intercession of saints departed, and through their mediation with the Lord of all things, in whose Presence we may suppose them standing, to seek a redress of our several grievances, and a supply of our respective wants? No! not this! For as we have but one God, so we have but one Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).(3) If any degrees of a supposed uneasiness in departed souls, upon the delay of the resurrection, should be conceived to require our prayers and intercessions that God would remove or lighten them, these the charity of our Church hath indulged to us in her burial office, where we beseech Almighty God that it may please Him of His gracious goodness shortly to accomplish the number of His elect, and to hasten His kingdom; that so we, with all those who are departed in the true faith of His holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul in His eternal and everlasting glory.
2. What of this sort may with safety be allowed to us?(1) We are to praise God for the benefit of their labours, through which we have been brought out of darkness and error into His marvellous light.(2) The lustre of their example is another circumstance deserving our praises to God, which will best be expressed in our imitation of it.(3) From the rest which they now enjoy from their labours, and from the blessedness of those who die in the Lord, we may comfort ourselves with the prospect of following them, and of partaking with them in the joy of our common Master.
(N. Marshall, D. D.)
I. COMMUNION WITH GOD. That all have a personal and equal access to the heavenly Father is a precious truth.
1. Yet thousands, from a sense of personal unworthiness, touch not the sacramental cup, shutting themselves out from this fellowship with their dying Lord. They cheerfully acknowledge a fitness in others, whilst they sorrowfully fail to find that fitness in themselves. "This honour have all His saints." If Christ received only perfect ones to His table, He would sit there alone; but He receives sincere souls, whatever may be their faults, and sitting with Him they become perfect.
2. This same self-depreciation expresses itself in the straitened supplication and lowered expectancy of many of God's people. The Old Testament is full of glorious records of the power of prayer; the New Testament is not less rich in similar instances; and we know still that God's ear is not heavy nor His arm shortened. Here, again, we bring in the idea of privilege, and limit marked answers to prayer and large answers to prayer to special men and extraordinary times. Yet is God's Word most clear in this matter, levelling all up to the open throne. In our sorrow, feebleness, want, danger, fear, any of us may come to God with the confidence of Moses, the importunity of Jacob, the undeniableness of Daniel, the sweet, filial freedom of Jesus Himself. Let us act like princes of God.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. There is unquestionably much that is sovereign in the gifts and movements of the Spirit of God. Gifts of healing, utterance, interpretation, etc., are peculiar to certain epochs and persons. The Spirit divideth "to every man severally as He will." But the grandest influences of the Holy Ghost — His enlightening, quickening, purifying powers — are imparted without partiality. His sovereign gifts and appointments are secondary; His essential and choicer influence is poured forth with undistinguishing richness on all receptive hearts. Let us make the great surrender, let us live in resolute purity, and concealed depths of our nature shall be broken up, unsuspected powers evoked, latent forces and talents shall surprise us into greatness. Those who can hardly stammer a testimony shall become clear and bold as golden trumpets filled with God's breath; the coldest glow as shining braziers full of live coals; the harshest characters become "musical instruments, and that of all sorts"; the weak pottery strong and bright as adamant; the coarse, crooked instrument a polished shaft; and the vessels of wood and iron shall be transmuted into vessels of alabaster and gold full of incense and odours.
III. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT. For each doubting soul there is assurance: a scroll for every bosom. The prodigal son moaned: "I am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servant:"; and this sentiment of mistrust is so deep in our heart we fail to see when the robe and ring are positively ours. Seek the sense of sonship as something belonging to you, waiting for you, and you shall not walk in darkness. Seek it with resolution. Plead for it in this very hour.
IV. ENTIRE SANCTIFICATION. We believe in the ability and purpose of Christ to cleanse us from every defilement, and to keep us in perfect purity of flesh and spirit. But are all to be thus saved? Here we falter. We think some are destined to attain pre-eminent excellence, whilst others must abide frail and faulty. Is the young student taught that some impracticable barrier separates him from the highest intellectual excellence? On the contrary, he is taught to cherish a sense of brotherhood with the illustrious spirits of all time. And it would be fraught with endless mischief if we were to deny the student the hope of utmost mental eminence. Surely then we ought to hesitate to place any gulf between the grandest characters of the Church of God and the lowliest of its members. The purpose of God is not realized in the occasional brilliant fruition of a Leighton, a Baxter, a David Stoner or a John Smith; God watches over His vineyard, watering it every moment, to the end that every flower should be full of beauty, every plant reach the ideal grace, every branch bend with the largest, ripest clusters.
V. Even into OUR ULTIMATE GLORIFICATION we carry the depreciating idea of ourselves. Many of God's people live with the hope of just getting through at last; they believe "they shall not arrive in the ship, but float ashore on a plank"; they figure to themselves some subordinate place in heaven they will be thankful to secure. A false humility is about as bad as a false ambition; and it will be well for us, thinking as meanly as we please about ourselves, to cherish to the full the great promises and immortal hopes of Christianity.
(W. L. Watkinson.).
Praise God in His sanctuary.I. ITS SPIRIT IS EXULTATION. Is there gratitude in it? Yes, gratitude of the highest type and degree, and gratitude is an element of joy. Is there admiration in it? Yes, admiration of supreme excellence, and the mind admiring beauty, whether artistic or natural, physical or moral, is the mind in rapture. Is adoration in it? Yes, adoration of the most transcendent order, the adoration of ineffable excellence, and the mind adoring is the mind in ecstasy. Talk not of worship as a means to heaven, it is heaven itself.
II. ITS REASON IS SUPREME. Praise God —
1. Because of His works.
(1) (2) 2. Because of His transcendent excellence. III. ITS OBLIGATION IS UNIVERSAL. (David Thomas, D. D.)
(2) 2. Because of His transcendent excellence. III. ITS OBLIGATION IS UNIVERSAL. (David Thomas, D. D.)
2. Because of His transcendent excellence.
III. ITS OBLIGATION IS UNIVERSAL.
(David Thomas, D. D.)
I. WHERE the chorus is to be rendered (ver. 1). The song and the sanctuary, the chorus and the cathedral, are admirably suited to each other.
II. WHY (ver. 2). For His "mighty acts" in daily life, according to the "excellent greatness" of His love as Father, compassion as Benefactor, power as Deliverer.
III. HOW (vers. 3-5). "Whoever despises music," says Luther, "I am displeased with him, Next to theology, I give a place to music, for thereby all anger is forgotten, the devil is driven away, melancholy, many tribulations, and evil thoughts are expelled. It is the solace of a desponding mind."
IV. BY WHOM (ver. 6). Here the psalmist reaches the climax in his exhortation; he has exhausted language; he can particularize no more; he rushes to the culmination; he demands a universal outburst of adoration; he calls upon all in whom the breath of life is to help swell the "hallelujah chorus!" O what a thrilling crash of melody! what a volume of perfect harmony, when animate and inanimate creation, with all creatures, rising rank upon rank, order above order, species above species, purged from corruption, delivered from all evil, and attuned to the euphony of the skies — when "everything that hath breath," the consecrated breath Divine — "shall join in one harmonious song, and crown Him Lord of all!"
(J. O. Keen, D. D.)
1. As a general rule it is likely that the life of prayer finds its earliest expression in asking God for earthly gifts, deliverances, and helps. But some never pass far beyond this stage. I am in pain; I cry to God to relieve me. I want greatly to succeed at an examination, and I pray about it. My father or mother is ill, and I go to my own room, and, perhaps in a flood of tears, implore Him to make my loved one well. I have, later on, difficulties about money: I pray God to help me in some unexpected way. Definite petition for tangible earthly good is the first step in this "Jacob's ladder" of prayer.
2. Time passes on, and brings the Strange experience of the soul's awaking. The thought of spiritual realities surrounding us is borne in with vivid freshness on the heart. I learn that I have sinned, and that God is holy. Judgment to come is a real thing. I must live for ever, and where shall that eternity be passed? "Out of the depths I cry unto the Lord," and I say, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." I ask a direct gift, but it is now no earthly blessing that I crave, but life for my sinful soul: "I am a sinner; save me, O Lord; Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" (Psalm 32; Psalm 51; Psalm 130.). This is a prayer for every stage. Were it not so, our Lord's own Prayer would, after a time, in Christian experience, go out of date. Yet here, again, the fact is observed that, as we go forward, these petitions form a smaller proportion of our prayers. There are other things which, to a great extent, come to press more on the soul for utterance.
3. For, thirdly, comes the long period of conflict and of self-discipline, during which our greatest desire is for growth in grace; for the development, under the Holy Spirit's direction and help, of the life of holiness. This noontide, as it may be called, of the Christian's day is a time of self-cultivation, of imitation of Christ, of temptation, fall, and rising again; of Christian work; of growing knowledge and experience. "Teach me to do Thy will, O my God; show me the way in which I should walk." And here, again, the Book of Psalms is a very storehouse of petitions. In the greater part of this book you find an almost endless variety of states of religious life and feeling.
4. Up to this stage prayer for our own selves, our body, soul, and spirit, has filled up most of our interest. But now, as love and sympathy grow — direct results of the grace which has been given through those earlier stages of prayer — we begin to find a habit of intercession developing within us. The family is the limit of our first real intercession. But the circle soon widens. It widens when we come to love our Sunday scholars, our school companions, our near neighbours, our colleagues in work. It widens much when, with a glow of real interest, we first bear before God the names of our enemies. "Father, forgive them: this is intercession indeed. Nothing grows more rapidly than this habit of spiritual intercession; nothing brings us nearer to Christ.
5. And yet, even at this more advanced stage of the life of prayer, the Christian soul, as it rises, must not stand still. As the eternal kingdom is neared, there are heard faint echoes from the heavenly choir, and their song is all a song of praise. The course of prayer has been like the course of the Psalter, and the Psalter ends with hallelujah! "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord!"
(Archdeacon Wynne.): — Psalm 150 is a Jewish hymn of praise; but it would not be out of place to describe it as the Psalm of Prepositions, seeing it is only by marking those words that we light on the progression of thought.
I. THE SPHERE OF PRAISE. "In His sanctuary," etc.
1. Saints on earth.
2. Angels in heaven.
II. THE REASON. "For His mighty deeds." The cross of love will become all the more marvellous if it be viewed as the central picture of a universal spectacle. What a new incentive to praise when the universe of the scientist, that staggers us by its vastness and startles us by its awfulness, is recognized as the sphere also of Divine love; and when the Cross is interpreted as focussing eternal power in its tenderness and pity.
III. THE MEASURE AND QUALITY. "According to His excellent greatness." Our praise, to be worthy and acceptable, must be dominated by a due sense of God's character.
IV. THE USE OF INSTRUMENTS. Any musician, apart altogether from questions of moral qualifications and religious fitness, can "play": only a worshipper can "praise." Whether, then, the instrument be an organ or a harp, a violin or a trumpet, it must become a medium between the soul and God.
V. THE INCLUSION OF ALL. "Let every breath you breathe praise the Lord." Thus rendered, it is not an extensive appeal addressed to the universe, including birds, animals, insects, fish; so much as an intensive appeal addressed to the audience already in mind. The thought is climatic. Breathing, with its double function, is to become symbolic of prayer and praise. By every inspiration we are to take in more than breath, viz. the oxygenized air of the Divine presence; and by every expiration we are to give out more than breath, viz. the thought and feeling of the very soul. A worshipper may say when thinking of the service of praise and his own limitations, "I cannot sing, nor can I play, and speech is inadmissible." "Granted," replies the psalmist, "but you can breathe: let that exercise become a medium between you and God. If the vocal and the instrumental be denied you, the inspirational is not."
(H. Elderkin.): —
I. THE MOTIVES.
II. WITH WHAT HEART AND MIND WE ARE TO PERFORM THIS SERVICE. He that singeth hymns, and psalms, and spiritual songs must make melody in his heart unto the Lord; he must hold faith and a good conscience; he must also have a mind superior to the world and its low enjoyments and cares; for that soul which is chained down to the earth, no praises, no, not the finest harmony in the world, can lift up into heaven.
III. THE BLESSED AND SALUTARY EFFECTS.
1. The first and immediate effect is, that it serves abundantly to confirm our strength and confidence in God; it fixes the heart upon the contemplation of Him who is the object of our praise, awakens in us a devout attention to heavenly things, increases the powers of the mind, and leaves it serene and pacified in a manner that cannot be expressed.
2. Another effect of it is the same with that which the hosannas of the children produced, who sung and celebrated our Lord when He appeared in the temple at Jerusalem; their hosannas to the Son of David silenced the adversary.
3. The last and most blessed effect of all others which our giving praises to God in this world will have upon us, is, that it will entitle us to praise Him for ever in the next; and nothing but beginning to do it here will make us capable of it hereafter.
(W. Jones, M. A.)
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