Dear Christ Church Family,
I missed getting this Daily Devotional out yesterday, due to an unusually debilitating migraine. Still, I think the message of Psalm 15 is important enough that it is worth considering even on the wrong day. I have included links to Tuesday’s readings below the message so that you might read those too.
Monday, April 27, 2020 (sent Tuesday) RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 25
Psalm 15: Ten rules for living in God’s presence. This is one of the shortest Psalms in the Bible, yet it asks and answers one of the most profound questions of a longing faith: “Lord, who gets to live every day in your presence?”
In the Psalmist’s day, if you wanted to be sure that you were in God’s presence, if you wanted to be sure to have a sense of that presence, there was just one place to be: it was on the Temple Mount, as close as you could get to the Holy of Holies. This was God’s dwelling place.
Given what follows in this Psalm, though, the references to the Tent and the Holy Hill are taking the Psalmist much farther back; back to the actual Tent of God, to the days when God blessed the interior of the portable Tabernacle that was moved from place to place to help lead the Israelites through the Wilderness, and then through their early days in the Promised Land. Given that, the Holy Hill is a remembrance of the beginning of the Faith itself; the Mountain of God, Mt. Sinai, where the Decalogue, The Ten Commandments, was first given.
The reason to think of this connection here is, again, what follows in this Psalm after the initial question. What follows is a decalogue of its own: ten actions that will ensure access to, and acceptance into, the presence of God.
Action one: Live a blameless life. This doesn’t mean blameless in human eyes, but in God’s eyes. The good news here is that God does not require a life that has never sinned. Rather, God requires a life that is humble and forgiven. Once forgiven, one is counted blameless in God’s eyes.
Action two: Do the right thing: this one gets detailed by the actions that follow.
Action three: Tell the truth, sincerely. That is, tell the truth, not to injure or blame, and not as an act of vengeance, but because God is Truth, and truth matters.
Action four: Speak with great care of another. It has been said that a reputation is the one possession that once destroyed, can never be fully restored, even if that one was innocent. Be careful of destroying such an irreplaceable possession.
Action five: Protect a friend from harm. Do not hurt them. Besides hurting one who has given us their trust, this is also a betrayal that may injure their ability to ever fully trust anyone again.
Action six: Protect a neighbor from disgrace. It’s just too easy to bring those we know really well down into disgrace, to lecture them and shame them; especially if we happen to be upset with them in the current moment. Instead, we are to seek their redemption and restoration.
Action seven: Avoid honoring those who advance themselves through power, cleverness, and deceit. The world may consider such people worthy of praise, but God does not, for they have accomplished their success through the destruction of others.
Actions eight through ten: honor and emulate those who do the following: Eight, honor and be a person who keeps their oaths and promises, even when hard-pressed to break them. Nine and ten, honor and be a person who will not oppress the needy nor seek injustice over the powerless. Nine and ten together refer to God’s requirement that those who have, help and protect those who have not. In ancient Israel, charging interest on loans was understood as acceptable in ordinary business matters, if the rate was not usurious. But it was considered as evil when used to profit by victimizing the poor. Also, since God was known to be a God of justice, using one’s influence, especially one’s wealth, to deprive another of justice was also considered a direct act of evil against God. What these actions show is this: who we honor displays the personal character we desire for ourselves, and the character we desire for ourselves will determine our desire to access God’s living presence.
Now, if we left this Psalm’s message right here, we would all have reason to give up desiring to live daily in God’s presence. After all, who among us in the light of these required actions would expect to be given access to God’s tent, or allowed to ascend God’s holy hill? But remember action one about living a blameless life? The blameless life is not about having never failed in these actions; it’s about having had the humility to seek forgiveness when we have failed. As another Psalmist has so well spoken this thought for us, “If you, O Lord, should count our sins, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you that you may be revered.”
The point the Psalmist is making is simply this: If you desire God’s living presence each day, just seek God’s justice in the actions he prescribes above, and seek God’s forgiveness when you fail; and it will be yours.
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
AM Psalm 26, 28