The holy psalms appointed to be prayed on the third day of the month are four mighty springs of living water, fragrant with heavenly grace, issuing as it were from the true Paradise, to relieve us from our mortal thirst, and increase in us immortal trust in Him who is, above, below, beside, among, and within all, leading us more surely than Moses, to His land of promise and of rest.
The first of them, Psalm 15, opens with a question,
Yahweh, who has the right to enter Your tent,
or to live on Your holy mountain?
And reveals the answer, a beautiful retelling of the commandments, not the Ten delivered on the smoke-shrouded mountain-top of Sinai, which are for the regulation of human society, but an inner Decalogue, commandments for the soul of man which must underlie any and all obedience to the other, the outer laws that were written on tablets by God Himself.
They are summarized by,
The man whose way of life is blameless.
Then follow the ten contained in, defining, the summary, telling us what God calls ‘blameless.’
Who always does what is right,
who speaks the truth from his heart,
whose tongue is not used for slander,
who does no wrong to his fellow,
casts no discredit on his neighbor,
looks with contempt on the reprobate,
but honors those who fear Yahweh;
who stands by his pledge at any cost,
does not ask interest on loans,
and cannot be bribed to victimise the innocent.
Who always does what is right, how can we know what is right? We have the Ten Commandments, yes, but what of the others, who do not have them? The words of the holy psalms are true for all. ‘What is right’ has been revealed, is revealed, to all. It is called the ‘conscience.’ How do we know it is given to all? Because everyone the world over without exception knows when they do wrong.
Who speaks the truth from his heart, what other way is there to speak the truth? Isn’t there only one truth, that which is? Yes, there is only one truth, but that truth is a Person, not a thing, He who is, not only that which is, the Creator, not just His creations. That Truth lives in the hearts of everyone, though not everyone knows Him, but if they love that Truth, they shall know Him at last.
Whose tongue is not used for slander, how can anyone keep from speaking ill of those who do wrong? But what is slander but the discovery of our own sinfulness in another whom we would hate? What is it but stoning our own offenses in the other harlot? It is a hard thing, but not impossible, to silence the slanderous tongue which lives in us all, and to do so gives us the right to approach God.
Who does no wrong to his fellow, how is this possible, because no one is perfect? We often fall into doing wrong when we didn’t mean to, and at other times we may wish to do wrong to our fellow but are prevented from doing it by the angels. How can anyone be expected to fulfill this commandment? The way of perfection is easy. It is to regard all with equal benevolence. Right acts will follow.
Casts no discredit on his neighbor, what can this mean? The Hebrew literally says, ‘Casts no disgrace on his neighbor.’ So what is disgrace? We all know what it feels like to be disrespected publicly. We all know how painful that is. We are cut off from others, our loss of face can plunge us into despair. This commandment is to do the opposite, not to disgrace our neighbor, but to raise him up.
Looks with contempt on the reprobate, can this really mean what it says? How can contempt for anyone make us worthy to be with God? Again, the Hebrew can clear the waters. ‘A contemptible person,’ that is, oneself, ‘in his eyes is repulsive.’ The direction of this commandment is to turn inward, and to hold as repulsive anything in ourselves that is contemptible, to regard ourselves with humility.
But honors those who fear Yahweh, how can we honor them, and how can we know who fears Yahweh? Of course, we cannot know for sure who fears God and who doesn’t. Sometimes people who fear God act unwisely, uncharitably, and sometimes the reverse, the indifferent can do acts of kindness and mercy. It is to honor, therefore, everyone, to respect all, that gives us access to life with God.
Who stands by his pledge at any cost, what can this mean? Here the Hebrew helps. ‘One who can swear to his detriment without retracting.’ To stand on one’s word, even when it means we must suffer, to demonstrate on the battlefield of our own bodies what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to confess Him, not only by word, but by life, this gives us the right to live with Him.
Does not ask interest on loans, how is this possible when the entire economic system of this world has been built around usury? Isn’t the answer obvious? It’s not in our power or capacity as individuals to oppose the prevailing system, but we can in our private affairs. We can lend in a spirit of love, of providing for others, as if everyone to whom we lend were our own children, as we are God’s.
And cannot be bribed to victimise the innocent, can this commandment even be given us? We don’t victimize the innocent—or do we? We don’t have to be predators in the first degree, but what of the second and the third degrees? Do we look the other way when others are being victimised, because ‘it’s none of our business’? This may be the hardest of the Ten, but can we forego it?
The final verse of Psalm 15 qualifies what David means by ‘to enter Your tent, or to live on Your holy mountain,’
If a man does all this, nothing can ever shake him.
To be in that place where we know we are in the Presence, where we know He is with us, that is to live on God’s holy mountain. We remember what we heard from the holy apostle, ‘We have been given possession of an unshakeable Kingdom’ (Hebrews 12:28). We remember what Christ Himself tells us, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and my Father will love him, and We shall come to him, and make Our home with him’ (John 14:23).
Yes, Lord, who has the right to enter Your tent, or to live on Your holy mountain? ‘Anybody who receives My commandments, and keeps them…’ (John 14:21). If a man does all this, nothing can ever shake him.