February 4th – Les Kovacs Psalm 15
Observe: King David appears to have been in a meditative mood when he wrote Psalm 15. Many biblical scholars believe it was written on his first, unsuccessful, attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem as recorded in 2 Samuel 6. Contemplating his failed attempt, he asks the question of who is worthy to live in the house of the Lord, and then he lists some of the characteristics of a righteous person, living a holy life. Walk in a blameless way; do what is right; speak the truth; offer no harm to your neighbor; hate sinful behaviour; keep your promises; and provide aid to the poor or oppressed.
Recounting all these things, David concludes, that whoever is able to live a righteous life “will never be shaken” (v5), and they will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Interpret: In this contemplative mood, David asks and answers his own question of who is worthy to live in the house of the Lord. If anyone in the Old Testament should know, its David, because he was chosen by God to rule over the Israelites (1 Sam 13:14) after Saul had disqualified his own kingship. David sets the bar pretty high for entry into God’s house. However, as we read further in scripture, we see that Psalm 15 only contains a partial list of these righteous behaviours. There are many more required qualifications found throughout the Bible, particularly in David’s other Psalms. In order to stand in the house of the Lord, not only must a person live up to God’s standards, but they must do so all the time. That’s a lot of checkboxes on the “Righteousness Scorecard.” Which human being could ever live that kind of life? When you read the stories of King David’s exploits, we find that not even he was able to live up to these standards. There is not a single human being in all of history who has ever lived up to these unattainably high expectations. Except one, Jesus Christ.
Application: David was not a perfect man or king. His story is told from 1 Samuel 16 through 1 Kings 2, and it paints a portrait of a man of contrasts. His story is one of great triumph as he defeated the enemies of Israel and united the tribes into one kingdom, and of utter moral failure when he committed adultery and murder just so he could take Bathsheba for his wife. He experienced great joy as he danced before the Lord with all his might when they finally brought the Ark of the Covenant into the city, and he suffered devastating despair at the rebellion and death of his son, Absalom. He wrote most of his Psalms as praises to God’s great glory, or as supplications for His divine deliverance, and still he was capable of all the serious sins that have afflicted humankind since Genesis 3. And yet he was credited as being a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). How?
What made David different was that despite being a deeply flawed human being, his heart was pointed towards God. God chose him to lead His people because David was deeply devoted to God and loved His Word (Psalm 119:47-48). He had a deep desire to follow God’s will and do “everything” God wanted him to do, despite his failings.
From our vantage point in history, we have not only the example of David, but of all the other giants of scripture as well. And like them, and despite our best intentions, we too fall well short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and could never dwell in the house of the Lord by our own efforts. We could never check all the boxes of holy behaviour.
Yet, as Christians we need not despair, knowing that we don’t have to rely on our own strength to live the perfect life because Jesus did it for us already. He lived the only unblemished life in faithful obedience to His heavenly Father, and then gave it all up for us. He traded His white robe for our dirty rags. He exchanged His royal crown for our weighty chains. He sacrificed His sinless life for our rebellious nature. And all He asks in return is that we believe in Him and point our hearts towards God.
We point our hearts to God when we spend time in His presence during our quiet moments and prayer times. We learn to love His Word by studying the scriptures which He inspired for our benefit. We grow our faith in Him as we bend our will to His and see the blessings He had planned for us from before we were born. We become more like Jesus when we let Him mold us into the people He created us to be. We are saved and allowed into His glorious throne room, into His holy presence, when we accept His gift of salvation.
We cannot check all the boxes. We cannot enter into in the house of the Lord in our own strength. But, Jesus Christ has opened the door to the heavenly realms and invited us in.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to grow in our faith and commitment to you. Forgive us when we sin, and then confess, repent and return to you. Guide us and teach us to love your laws as your Holy Spirit opens up your word to us. Help us to be people after your on heart. This we pray in the merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: My Saviour My God – Aaron Shust
Psalm 14: Lynne McCarthy 2/2/22
Observe There is no God(1). This saddest of opening verses is uttered by “the fool”, not openly, but deep in the dark recesses of the heart, going their own foolish, corrupt ways. As God looks on these, His human creatures whose very nature is corrupt, He sorrowfully notes there is no one who does good, not even one (3, NIV); the negative repetition reveals His sadness. These unbelievers carelessly and cruelly devour my people as they eat bread (4), enjoying their evil deeds, oblivious to the Lord.
But the Lord dwells among the righteous, providing refuge for the poor and vulnerable. And the evildoers? They live in dread as they prefer darkness to light; for them, there is no refuge.
David’s song ends with a prayer of hope, when (not if) The Lord will save the resolutely faithful ones, His people; He dwells forever in His sanctuary (Zion). He IS.
Interpret Atheists, who adamantly insist ‘there is no God’, are in a dangerous place. They cling to the idea that God (if He exists) takes no interest in humanity, so life is lived by human reason and one’s own perceptions. It’s open season to live and think with no accountability (because sin doesn’t exist, either). David’s psalm is a lament by the righteous ones, mourning those who do not seek God.
In the Bible, ‘foolishness’ is a destructive self-centredness. Denying God’s reality means He can be ignored - or such is this moral delusion. Tim Keller writes, “Every sin is a kind of practical atheism – it is acting as if God is not there.” With inclination to sin buried deep in human nature, all are capable of ignoring God, whether in making and carrying out plans without Him; (look at Isaiah 31:1-3); voicing opinions and prejudices that demean others; whitewashing questionable motives and evil intent (= lying), or just being stubborn and ornery.
What is this ‘devouring my people’? It could be their depriving the poor of basic needs or dignity, enslaving so they no longer enjoy freedom, making life so difficult that suffering becomes their lot, or cruel bullying in any form. It could mean anything that treats another as less than the image of God. Because evildoers themselves do not rely on God, their choices in life produce bleakness, darkness, fear. There is no refuge for them. But God rescues those who cling to Him with even greater stubbornness, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Note: With the exception of verses 5 and 6, this Psalm is the same as Psalm 53.)
Apply We aren’t physically enslaved, nor are we materially impoverished, nor are we unjustly bullied – these come from outside ourselves. So we need to examine our own hearts to recognize our ‘atheisms’, living and thinking as if God can’t see or doesn’t care what we do. It’s so easy if we have slid into carelessness about prayer, the Word, neglecting to meet together, as some do (Heb. 10:25). We need to listen to that still small voice reminding us that the Lord sees, knows, and cares how we live our lives.
Ask If I really looked at what’s in my heart, would I shrink from what’s there? But if I don’t do this, how will I know what I’m hiding, and secretly thinking, from You? By Your grace would You nudge me to turn to You immediately, so I turn away from my darkness to Your light?
Pray Lord God, I have not loved You with all my heart and mind and soul and strength, and I have not loved my neighbour as myself. Merciful Lord, if I’m truly honest, ‘atheisms’ that ignore You are buried in my heart. I ask for Your mercy to renew my faith and trust in You, Lord Jesus, to believe with all my heart.
Sing Psalm 14: O Saviour, Come - My Soul Among Lions https://youtu.be/BF_7mSFHYyU
In 2024, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.