Since mid-summer and a three week camping trip in the forests of my region of Canada I have been studying and reading a lot on healthy relationships. The believer’s relationship with God being the foundation for all healthy relationships. It is an interesting study as I learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Topics such as friendships in a time when we are ruled by social media; how to end unhealthy relationships; the need for solid character to develop healthy relationships; and how to grow healthy relationships.
As believers, the key to all relationships is our walk with God. Psalm 15 is a wonderful psalm that talks about the character of one who would abide with the Lord and have intimacy with Him. The writer asks (KJV), “Who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?” The assumption is that these are two things to be sought after. However, neither sounds appealing. After all, who wants to live in a tent? And what’s the big deal about living on a holy hill?
The tent referred to the place where God resided. And the holy hill was the hill in Jerusalem where the permanent temple was eventually built. To have access to these places was to have access to God.
The Israelites of that day thought of God as dwelling in the ark of the covenant inside the sanctuary tent. God gave them that picture as a tangible reminder of His presence. In their way of thinking, the closer they were to the ark and the tent, the closer they were to God. The farther they were from the ark and the tent, the farther they were from God. They believed this so deeply that they took the ark of the covenant with them into battle. And who could blame them?
So when you take these questions, steeped in ancient Jewish culture, and translate them into our language, this passage asks and answers one of the most relevant questions imaginable: Who gets an inside track with God? The implication is that intimacy with God is a real possibility.
The psalmist makes it clear that this privilege is reserved for men and women of character. Psalm 15 in full reads (TPT):
Lord, who dares to dwell with you?
Who presumes the privilege of being close to you,
living next to you in your shining place of glory?
Who are those who daily dwell in the life of the Holy Spirit?
They are passionate and wholehearted,
always sincere and always speaking the truth—
for their hearts are trustworthy.
They refuse to slander or insult others;
they’ll never listen to gossip or rumours,
nor would they ever harm another with their words.
They will speak out passionately against evil and evil workers
while commending the faithful ones who follow after the truth.
They make firm commitments and follow through,
even at great cost.
They never crush others with exploitation or abuse
and they would never be bought with a bribe
against the innocent.
They will never be shaken; they will stand firm forever.
Let’s list the description in modern day terms:
- They walk with integrity
- They do what is right
- They tell the truth
- They don’t gossip
- They don’t mistreat people
- They side with those who are right
- They keep their word
- They lend money to those in need without interest
- They don’t take advantage of people for financial gain
That’s quite a list. Clearly, character paves the way to intimacy with God.
Initially, this idea may sound somewhat pretentious. Unchristian. But that is not the case at all. Throughout Scripture, God is described as having a personality. Again and again, we see Him relating to humankind much the same way we relate to one another. In fact, the rules that govern human relationships are very similar the rules that govern our relationship with the Father – God the Creator.
Three elements are always present in a healthy relationship.
To have a quality relationship with someone, you must respect him, trust him, and communicate with him. The same is true about your relationship with God.
The pursuit of character (the list from Psalm 15) entails all three elements of a healthy relationship. When you acknowledge that God’s standard is THE standard, you demonstrate respect. When you commit to follow God’s standard, regardless of what it costs you personally, you demonstrate trust. And as you seek to understand His standard more thoroughly, and as you run up against your inability to live out His standards consistently, you communicate with Him.
The pursuit of character (Psalm 15) inevitably becomes the pursuit of God, for the standard by which you judge your life flows from the nature of the heavenly Father. You may begin with a list in mind. But eventually, you discover that you are pursuing a Person, not a standard.
More next time…