Friday, January 15, 2016

Remaining in fellowship with the LORD

Today being the fifteenth day of the year, it is now time for a meditation drawing from the fifteenth psalm. This psalm opens with the question:

O LORD, who may abide in your tent?
  Who may dwell on your holy hill?

The inquiry concerns the conditions to be fulfilled by any person who wishes to remain in fellowship with God. Of course, we know that God is loving and gracious, and is willing to accept into his communion any person who repents of her sins, whatever they might be. But the question of the psalmist doesn't concern access to God but remaining: who may abide, who may dwell?

The answer he gives is an unambiguous ethical one:

Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right,
  and speak the truth from their heart.

This is all to say that remaining in fellowship with the Lord is for those who live righteously. This is consistent with the themes we have discovered in previous psalms, according to which the Lord knows his faithful and looks kindly upon the righteous, but he opposes the wicked and they have no hope in him, so long as they remain wicked. To put it another way, our fellowship with God is broken by our serious sins.

Consider the examples the psalmist gives to describe this blameless person:

... who do not slander with their tongue,
  and do no evil to their friends,
  nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
in whose eyes the wicked are despised,
  but who honor those who fear the LORD:
who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
who do not lend money at interest,
  and do not take a bribe against the innocent.

These characterize those whose fellowship with God is unbroken. On the other hand, a person who has done such things cannot expect to remain in good standing with the Lord, but instead must repent and confess her sins.

Especially worrisome to me is this line about honoring those who fear the LORD. If you are around Christians long enough, you will find that they do not often have nice things to say about each other. But the psalmist says those who may dwell on the holy hill of God are only those who honor persons who fear the LORD. What will I have to say for myself, when the Lord will ask me about all those times I spoke ill of other Christians? Of members of my own church? Of members of another church who feared the LORD and wanted to do his will, and I thought I knew they were all wrong? Lord forgive!

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