Have you ever heard someone say, maybe to a wayward son or daughter, “If you are going to live in this house then this is what is required of you.”? Usually what follows is a list of activities and habits of behaviour expected of them in order for the family to be able to live together in some sort of peace and harmony. Often questions of attitude and concern for others may also be mentioned.
The key thing in all this is that the “wayward son or daughter” is family. They are not strangers to the household, but members. Considering this we can now look at this psalm, its question and the answer, spoken by and to people of faith in the God of Israel. People like you and me.
Here in Psalm 15, as mentioned in my last post in a quote from Kidner, there is a “pattern of question and answer here [which] may possibly be modelled on what took place at certain sanctuaries in the ancient world, with the worshiper asking the conditions of admittance, and the priest making his reply. But while the expected answer might have been a list of ritual requirements, here, strikingly, the Lord’s reply searches the conscience.” Kidner then refers to some other passages of scripture where he says, “It happens again in Psalm 24:3-6 and in Isaiah 33:14-17, whose final climax anticipates closely, as this psalm does in general, the beatitude on the pure in heart.” (see references # 29)
So, let’s look at these passages (from the NIV) and see if they shed further light on, firstly, the question in our psalm.
So Psalm 15 asks:
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
And Psalm 24:3 asks:
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
And Isaiah 33:14-17, a little more dramatically, states:
The sinners in Zion are terrified;
trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
Obviously referring to what Isaiah perceives as what it would be like, as a “sinner in Zion”, to be in the presence of the God of judgement.
So, the same question in different words. An extremely important question for all of us, especially if, as the psalmist in Psalm 24:1 says,
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
And in verse 8 that he is the:
…King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
This being true, it is therefore vital that we, who live on this earth created by God, understand how we should live in his presence.
Basically, the question could possibly be summarized as, “if God is who he says he is and is what the Bible describes him to be, then is it possible to somehow come into his presence and still live?” And of course, from the biblical perspective, it is. That’s why in all 3 passages mentioned above, the question is followed by an answer in the affirmative. And not only is it possible, but it is to be greatly desired both by God and us. And so the psalmists and Isaiah reassure us that it is possible.
The next question then is, “are we willing?” Is it the desire of our hearts to come before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Do we “hunger and thirst” for the Living God? Or are we seeking to avoid him at all costs? Maybe due to our unbelief or maybe due to our wilful disobedience to all that we know is right?
The wonderful truth is that God, our Father desires us to be with him, to enjoy Him forever.
May we, like Isaiah, be able to say, “O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in times of distress.” (Isa. 33:2)
Thank you Father that you are “ able to keep [us] from stumbling and to present [us] before [your] glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 24-25)