LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbour no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man
but honours those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.
This is my favourite Psalm; no, it’s my favourite Bible passage.
I can’t exactly tell you why this is so. It’s a fairly obscure chunk of scripture, not famous like, say, Psalm 23. No-one’s holding up signs reading “PSALM 15” at football matches.
But that’s the thing about the Bible – you never know which bit is going to speak to you at any given moment. And it’s a big book, which gives the Holy Spirit plenty of material to work with.
I’ll be honest, I think some of it is down to the writing and translation, something about how the words run together, something about how it sounds, how it flows. But there’s more to it than that.
I wonder if part of the reason I like this psalm is because it’s a code of honour almost, a declaration of what’s right – be honest, be generous, be pure of heart and don’t give in to hatred. It tells us how to live.
But here’s the thing – you can look at Psalm 15 and feel despair. Who may live in the Lord’s sanctuary? Based on that description, very few people. Heck, I cast a slur on my fellowman only this morning. He was tailgating me. He was driving a van.
Is my walk blameless? Well, I’m not Hitler but that’s not the point. Hitler isn’t our baseline, nor is Joe Bloggs at the bus stop. God is, and God’s holy, and sadly it’ll be a long time before I am.
So why do I like this psalm when I know I can’t live up to it, not 100%, not forever?
Because one of, if not the, message of Christianity is one of grace. We all fall short of the glory, as I seem to recall Lenny Kravitz once saying, but through the grace of God, through that moment at the first Easter when the curtain between God and man was torn down, that falling short matters less than the love of Christ. The man who wrote this Psalm, King David, knew full well what it was like to fall short of holiness, and yet he was still described as a man after God’s own heart.
And so we can dwell in the Lord’s sanctuary, despite the sins and scars of our past; we can take Psalm 15 as a code for living, despite our inability to live up to it. Because we are saved by grace and grace alone; lost and yet found.
And we won’t be shaken because the mountain on which we stand is holy.