At sundry times and in divers manners I have heard a question asked which I here find in the 15th Psalm. Some put it this way: Where will you spend eternity?
I know, I know: the question put into that form usually comes from the corner of those that dilute the Gospel of God; they present the race to eternity as a game of chance; they emphasize the responsibility of man at the expense of God’s Sovereign counsel. I know all that. But the question itself is not necessarily wrong. It may be a theme that is pregnant with meaning.
I find no fault asking this question of myself: where, o my soul, wilt thou spend eternity. And God be praised, I know the wonderful answer.
The question is a little different in the 15th Psalm. There we read in substance: Who is going to spend eternity in heaven? What kind of person must you be in order to fit into the heavenly scheme of things?
Oh what important question!
Notice also that the question here is asked of God.
That is very salutary; also very wisely done. It is really the only place where you may expect the right answer. No one knows who fits there but the Lord. After all is said and done, heaven is the place where God dwells and therefore He alone knows what kind of persons fit there.
It seems that the poet gets his answer from a meditation of God’s virtues. He asks of the Lord: Lord, who fits there where Thou livest? And forthwith he finds the answer. In his heart and mind that is illumined by the light from above.
Let us attend unto the qualifications needed for heavenly sojourn and dwelling.
If I use the literal language of the Holy Spirit I hear first of all that we must have our walk in uprightness.
That means that in my heart and mind, with my mouth and feet, in my whole life I walk in the virtue of truth and light. For that’s the meaning. To be upright means that I am what I say, that I appear according to what lives in my inmost heart. That I be honest throughout. Dat ik niet tegenval.
The upright are people that really like you when you may bask in their smile. Do they tell you that a certain matter is such and such, you may depend upon this matter to be so. There are no shadows and dark corners in their walk. The opposite of uprightness is that you have a curse in your heart and a smile on your face. When you say by the half-opened door: “Be sure and call again!” but when the door is shut: “Wel, dat hebben we weer gehad! The fools!”
No, but the upright may dwell in heaven with God and His angels.
Moreover, they work righteousness.
That means that you act, according to the will of God, that which is really good, salutary, lovely. Because that is the meaning of righteousness. It is the urge towards things that are comely. Thus it is with God: He wills Himself as the Highest Good.
To work righteousness is that in all your active life you steer towards God. You want to please Him in all your actions. You do not work unto men as men- pleasers, but you always ask: Lord, what would Thou have me do?
And he speaketh truth in his heart.
Have you ever listened to the talk of your heart? I assure you that it is a very wonderful pastime. You are going to learn a great deal about yourself when you do that. We all talk in our heart. Without words. They are the unheard whisperings, meditations, fancies, motives. They lurk there incessantly.
You see, we are confronted with a great deal. God, His Word, the world, our neighbor, ourselves, in short, everything. And the heart reacts. In any given circumstance there is the speech of the heart. There may be little time between the inaudible whisper in the heart and the spoken word: I assure you that there is no such thing as “involuntary speech,” that is, speech without its fountain. We sometimes counsel people to “think before you speak.” What we mean is: think well before you speak. In all other cases we have thought but not always as wisely as we ought to have done.
Well, those that will dwell in the holy hill Zion must think and speak truth in their heart. They must react to the object in the right way.
Ah! that’s not so easy!
For there is the devil and our inborn evil.
And the devil is the father of the lie and by nature we are liars.
However, God whose name is Truth will only have those persons about Him who have Him in their heart. Even while they are in sorrow: ’k Denk aan U, O God, in’t klagen!
Or: My meditation of Him shall be sweet!
The people that will fit in heaven do not take slander on their tongue. That hurts. Slander is the lie united to the person of our neighbor. And we peddle this unity under the name of truth. We wrap up the good name of our neighbor in the detestable garment of falsehood and say: there you have his picture.
If you do that you cannot go to heaven. Because God never acts that way. We read in Scripture that everyone of us shall bear his own burden in the day of judgment. Permit me to use another metaphor: when God shall summon us before Him, each of us shall be clothed in a suit that shall belong to him. God always speaks the truth regarding His creatures.
And if you take a reproach against your neighbor which you may have picked up somewhere, you cannot dwell with God.
God only knows how many reproaches there are against us. I say it with a deep sigh. Walk ever so carefully and yet you hurt one another, you make enemies, you get haters of your person. There are innumerable reproaches against us all. Neither are there persons lacking that will peddle them. Leave them alone! Always belittling? Yes, do not multiply the mudslingers! Their number is legion as it is. And God does not like you if you always are heaping abuse and contempt against the son of your mother, le will not have you in the palaces of the King.
As to verse 4a, I like the translation of the learned Delitzsch better than our version. According to him the next characteristic of the sojourner with God is displeased indeed, but with himself. He would have us read: “He who is displeasing in his own eyes, to be despised!” Yes, God loves the humble. He that humbleth himself shall be exalted, even to the heavens.
And if he notices that you fear God he will love you. He is a companion of those that fear God.
It happens that he has made a vow. It was to his own hurt. This he found out after the vow was made. You know, reader, from your own life’s history that this happens sometimes. Well, the man approved of God, but listen:
“From his vow he will not waver
Though it bring him sad reward!”
For God’s sake.
This same man may have a good deal of money; perhaps he was a small-time financier. This happens sometimes, although not often. At any rate, the man sojourning in God’s tabernacle will not take excessive interest for his money. Usury is excessive interest. It is even possible that he will help a poor brother in distress without charging interest. He will treat every case on its own merits. And when he discloses his money coffers he will cast his eye to Him who owns all the gold and silver in the world.
It will happen that the innocent is caught in a trap of the wicked. These wicked have need at such times of confederates. They are ready even to lay out money, bribes, in order to have an open and shut case against the innocent.
But, my brother, do not worry over much: our sojourner with God will refuse the bribe against the innocent. He will: “And the innocent befriending”.
The beautiful creature that doeth all these things shall not be moved unto all eternity. No, for he will dwell in the Secret Place of the Most High, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty.
My space is almost covered: I must hurry. Well, a few concluding remarks are enough.
There is just one man who fits this description. He is Jesus Christ the Lord. If you have plenty of time you ought to re-read what I have written about this man and you will see that Jesus is the only man. We have all acted the very contrary of Psalm 15.
And I hear an echo of the fearful question of the disciples of Jesus: But who then can be saved?
The answer is also the Gospel everlasting: Jesus did all this for you and when you are regenerated and converted, He also does all the contents of the fifteenth Psalm through you.
That is the Gospel.
Jesus who lives in us makes us like unto the glorious image of the Son.
You just study the 15th Psalm as the day is long.
And we all, with an open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord!
And when that sanctifying process is completed, you will not recognize yourselves anymore. Your weeping will have an end. While your peace shall be as a river.
No, you will not recognize the erstwhile sinner in the glorious beauty of the sons and daughters of the Almighty.
But God will recognize you!
He will say: Come, ye blessed! Inherit the Kingdom.
Now you may abide in My tabernacle; and now you may dwell in my holy hill!