1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
David opens this psalm with questions. Surrounded day and night by people who claim to be God’s chosen nation, David wonders who is actually fit to draw near to God. The way David asks in the Hebrew is: “Yahweh, who can dwell with and remain with you in your dwelling place? Who may abide and be established on your sacred mount?” David addresses God in an intimate way, using the name Yahweh. By doing this we know that David is close with God, and yet he asks a question about who can be close. David understands that God is holy, and only a righteous person may dwell with Him. Could it be that David is inquiring not only over the people of Israel but himself, too?
He knows the answer to the question. Holiness can only dwell with holiness. This does not mean that holiness cannot come in contact with unrighteousness, but that in order to remain forever in God’s presence, one must be holy (or righteous). We understand this because of the passages in Job where Satan comes before God, but he does not stay long. God is sovereign over all things and because of that He deals with the unrighteous as well as the righteous. The difference is that the person who is considered righteous will dwell with God forever.
What is this holy mountain David speaks of? “This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.” – Zechariah 8:3. Several places in scripture talk about God’s holy mountain and we see the culmination of the purpose of this mountain when Christ is crucified upon it. Christ is the one who is established on that holy mountain. Though David did not know when or how, he looked forward to the coming of one who would fulfill all that he is about to expound upon. It is because of David’s faith in the future Messiah that he is counted righteous and able to come before God with questions like these.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11:39-40
The one whose walk is blameless – To walk before the Lord simply means how you live your life. We are constantly living before the face of God. He is everywhere at all times. Each thing we say, do, think… He knows and sees it all. To be truly blameless we must be truly righteous – loving God and shunning evil – and able to follow all the commandments of God’s law (Deuteronomy 5:7-21). “Such a high priest [Christ] truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” – Hebrews 7:26
who does what is righteous – To be righteous is not just to hear the law of God, but to obey the law of God. Knowing the law makes us accountable to it, and every man has it ingrained in his heart – that is why we know good from evil (Romans 3:20). “Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” – Romans 10:4
who speaks the truth from their heart – Can anyone know fully what is truth and what is false? If it is true then in the end it will stand the test of God’s judgement. Is what comes out of your mouth true? Do you live your life in truth? In the words of Pilate just before he handed Christ over to be crucified, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” – John 17:17, words of Jesus.
whose tongue utters no slander – Each time we make a false statement against someone we slander them. Each time we take the Lord’s name in vain we slander Him. The person who meets this requirement knows how to keep their tongue from wagging. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” – Luke 6:45, words of Jesus.
who does no wrong to a neighbor – Who is your neighbor? According to Jesus in His teachings to the expert of the law in Luke 10:30-37, all people are our neighbors. If we are unkind to any person that crosses our path we have done wrong to our neighbor. “8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Romans 13
and casts no slur on others – The word slur here in the Hebrew is taunt, or scorn. If a person is rude to the face of another, causing them pain or grief, they have taunted and scorned them. It is these scars that will likely never heal. “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
who despises a vile person – We do not have to agree with or tolerate evil. We are to despise evil and those who push for it. To be righteous is to love good and truth and justice, but also to hate evil. Righteousness does not entertain evil. Righteousness speaks the truth in love – and love does not mean tolerance, it means truth. We may have those in our family or our lives that hate the truth and push us to become like the world, but we are called to be set apart, just as Christ was. He walked among the wicked yet he never sinned. We do not have to be conformed to the world to be able to spread the Gospel (the Truth). “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:14-16
but honors those who fear the Lord – As members of one body, we are to be respectful and honoring to those who share in Christ’s gift. We honor each other because God has given us life. We did not get to choose who would be saved and who would not, but God has made the final decision. If He approves it, then we must also approve it. “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:3-6
who keeps an oath even when it hurts – Our words hold power. By saying you will do something for someone you have created a sense of trust in the other person. When denying a promise our words create mistrust. God asks for us to be truthful in all we do. If we cannot live up to something we claim we can do, then we should not be saying it. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” – Matthew 5:33-37, words of Jesus.
and does not change their mind – Going along with oaths, each time you make a decision and declare to yourself you will do it, you are making an oath to yourself, and God knows. He knows our thoughts. If what you think in your head determines what you do, then by changing your mind you change what you are doing. A person who is constantly changing their mind is like a boat adrift on the sea constantly being swayed by what is going on around them. We are called to be set apart, unlike the world and it’s ever changing ways. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.. unchanging. If we live by the truth then the only change our mind should make is for that truth. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” – James 1:5-8
who lends money to the poor without interest – A righteous person, worthy to dwell with God, is a gracious person. We must be willing and wanting to give to those who are less fortunate than ourselves, but in a way that does not call attention to ourselves. By very definition graciousness is to do above and beyond what is deserved, and even what is not deserved. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:2-4, words of Jesus.
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent – In Deuteronomy 27 the Lord announces that anyone who accepts a bribe against an innocent person is cursed. The righteous person will turn away a man who offers them anything that may cause harm to a person who has not earned that harm. God is justice. He will give out justice where it is due. If a person wrongs another for no reason except extortion, that person will reap justice from the Lord. “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.” – Deuteronomy 16:19
David understood that there is no man who can fulfill the law of God. He begs the question and now we must ask ourselves if we meet the requirements. Though we may be saved, we are as yet being sanctified. We will not reach perfection until that glorious day when Christ welcomes us home. Let us always be mindful then that we are unworthy – always in need of the Lord – and blessed to be called children of God. Apart from Christ we are sinners, but in Him we are made righteous.
David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” – Romans 4:6-8
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. – Hebrews 3:1
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:12-13