Questions come in every flavor—the trivial, the unnecessary, the silly, the important, the thought-provoking, sometimes even the crucial. Perhaps you forfeit an answer because you don’t ask the question. Perhaps you ask the right question, but are satisfied with a wrong answer. The best scenario is that a vital question is asked, an accurate answer is given, and the information is acted upon in the right way. That in mind, consider the question posed atop the fifteenth Psalm.

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” (v. 1, ESV). These places represent where God is, so the question is asking who is welcome in God’s presence. The answer is not exhaustive, but paints the picture of a certain kind of heart heaven wants to see, whether in the days of Abraham, or under Moses’ law, or today in the gospel era.

“He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;” (v. 2). He’s a man against whom charges of wrongdoing cannot be made (cf. Luke 1:6). It’s not just that he refrains from evil, or that he’s doing something, but, rather, that he actively engages in doing right. Lots of people are doing whatever satisfies them emotionally, or what they’ve heard, or what they believe is popular, or what they think they can get away with. God’s man “does what is right,” even if it hurts. He “speaks truth,” so that his heart’s sentiment is in harmony with his speech (contrast those in Isa. 29:13).

“who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;” (v. 3). He never lies to the detriment of someone else’s reputation (i.e. “slander”). Some delight in digging up dirt on people, stretching the truth, misrepresentation, character assassination. Yet, lying is always wrong, even slandering your enemy (imagine if politicians heeded this). Evil toward a neighbor is not only limited, but prohibited altogether. God’s man does not gossip about his neighbor, steal his neighbor’s Amazon package, covet his neighbor’s new vehicle, etc. (cf. Rom. 13:9-10). Nor will he speak badly against a friend. Sometimes, even true things about a person do not need to be told (Prov. 10:12). Mark Antony observed that the wound left on Caesar by the hand of Brutus was “the unkindest cut of all” because Brutus was supposed to be Caesar’s friend.

“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;” (v. 4). God’s man has no respect for the morally bankrupt. Our world honors fame, power, money, sex, even perversity. God’s people honor those who honor God. In the next chapter David will say, “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3). As for swearing to one’s hurt and not changing course, God’s man had rather be damaged than be dishonest. If he borrows, he pays back (if it hurts, he absorbs the pain). If he promises, he does it (even if circumstances change for the worse). The Lord’s people produce excellence, not excuses.

“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” (v. 5). “Money at interest” may be curious to us. Most in our day have made borrowing a way of life. In ancient Israel, borrowing was done more on an emergency basis, so to charge interest would be taking advantage of a brother in time of need. Even then, God allowed Israelites to charge interest to foreigners (Deut. 23:20), and later Jesus sanctioned investing money in a bank to earn interest as a matter of good business practice (Matt. 25:27). As far as the principle applies to us, it seems not to forbid investing, but, rather, to forbid taking wrongful advantage of people in need. Likewise, bribery is off the table (cf. Deut. 16:19). It’s always sin to take money in return for a judicial decision or legal action. This Psalm is all about the integrity of a heart that loves the Lord and wants to dwell with him and “never be moved.” If, today, those who obey God are purchased by Jesus’ blood (Acts 20:28), then God only buys those whose character is not for sale!

-Weylan Deaver