What kind of person would you allow to live in your house? Would you accept just anyone? An incessant liar? A person who always talks about you behind your back? Someone who harms the helpless? Would a vile person or someone who held vile and contemptible people in high esteem be accepted? As a rule, you rightfully would reject such people, as most right thinking people would. In fact, God does want just anyone to come and abide in His house. Yes, He wants everyone to abide in His house but only if they behave themselves certain ways.
The fifteenth Psalm sets forth in general terms those whom God would allow in His Tabernacle under the Old Covenant. Under the New Covenant, the Tabernacle of God is the Lord’s church (Heb. 8:1). The Lord’s church is also spiritually designated Zion (Heb. 12:22,23). Who, then, does God want in His house, the church?
He wants those who walk uprightly in His House (v. 2). Our “walk” is our manner of life. This is a reference to our whole life, not just on Sunday morning, or on Wednesday evening or only when it is convenient. We are blessed when we do not walk in the council of the ungodly (Psalm 1:1). John says our life is to be continually lived in the light, indicated by the present tense of the verb “walk” (I John 1:7). A Christian is one who has changed his whole life (Eph. 2:2,3; Rom. 6:4). To walk uprightly, Paul says, is to walk “according to the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2:11-14).
Only those who work righteousness can abide in the House of the Lord (v.2). William Tyndale translated the Greek term which is translated as “righteous” in our Bibles as “rightwise” or “rightways.” That word means in the right manner or way (cf. Matt. 1:18 “on this wise”). It is to be justified or just. It is not merely being right, but being right with God. The Jews failed to understand this about Jesus. They sought to establish their own righteousness based on law and rejected Christ (Rom. 10:1-3). True righteousness is found only in God’s word (Psalm 119:172; Heb. 5:13; Rom. 1:16,17).
Speaking the truth in your heart is a necessary quality for abiding in the tabernacle of God (v.2). Truth is vitally important (John 8:32; John 17:17; I John 5:13; 2:3, etc.) but we must speak the truth in our hearts, as well. It is easy to tell someone else what the truth is and what they should do, but it is much more difficult to examine our own hearts to find what is there. We must examine ourselves (I Cor. 13:5). We are frequently willing to dismiss what we do wrong while condemning it in others (Matt. 7: 3,4). If we do not deal with our problems in the here and now, God will deal with them in the there and then!
God does not want backbiters in his House (v. 3). Backbiting is the malicious defamation of someone’s character behind their back. It comes from a word meaning to “espy; to roam from house to house learning secrets and disseminating them.” Sometimes we must speak about other’s problems, but only with a view to help them. However, backbiting is condemned in scripture (Rom. 1:30; II Cor. 12:20). Some men’s tongues, it seems, bite worse than their teeth.
Doing evil against your neighbor disqualifies you from living in the House of God. “Evil” falls under two categories: Physical evil, which is unpleasant and unwanted events, and spiritual or moral evil. Sin is the only intrinsic evil and is always evil (I John 3:4). Physical evil cannot be completely controlled by us but moral evil is under our complete control. The Law of God’s House is fulfilled in one word, namely “love your neighbor” (Rom. 13:9,10).
To abide in the House of God we must not take up a reproach against our neighbor (v. 3). We should not be willing to listen to, much less believe, every evil report that is brought our way unless there is obvious reason. William Perkins gave this advice: “If we cannot excuse his doing, excuse his intent; if the deed is evil, think that it was done in ignorance; if there is no way to excuse him, think that some great temptation befell him, and you would do the worse if such a temptation befell you. And give God thanks that no such temptation has yet befallen you.” Remember Jesus was lied against by false witnesses (Matt. 26:57-61).
In the House of God the vile are contemned and those that fear the Lord are honored (v. 4). Who are our heroes today? Do our heroes epitomize the truth, goodness, honesty, and integrity? Do they exemplify biblical virtues or do they exhibit a rebel spirit? In the House of God, there are some things which are done by evil men of which we should be ashamed even to speak (Eph. 5:10-12).
The kind of man that God wants is one who keeps his word (v. 4). Jesus said we should let our word be our bond (Matt. 5:33-37). We should not be in the habit of promising what we cannot keep and should keep what we promise, no matter how insignificant the matter. It should be a matter of integrity for us even if, in the end, we find that it will hurt us. When we open our mouth to the Lord, we cannot go back (Jud. 11:35).
A person who abides in God’s House does not use his wealth to hurt others (v. 5). While there is nothing wrong with wealth in and of itself (e.g., Abraham was wealthy) we must never use the power which wealth carries with it to injure those less blessed. Indeed, a greater obligation rests upon those who have more to do more (Eph. 4:28). We should realize that we will not be able to keep our money once this life is through (I Tim. 6:6-10).
Under the New Covenant, we must obey the gospel to be added to the Lord’s church, the House of God (Acts 2:38, 47). But the kind of person God wants in His house under the New Covenant is essentially the same in character as those under the Old. Let us diligently strive to be those things God requires of us to enter into His Holy Hill and the Tabernacle not made with hands so that we may dwell there in the approbation of God.
Eric L. Padgett