By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath, 19th November, 2011)
No Unruly Guest: Godly Integrity is a Must
Imagine spending time with God for a few days as His guest. Will you backbite? Will you gossip? Will harbour ill-thoughts against your neighbour (for He can read your mind)? Will you enter into a secret love affair? You will lie?
I can imagine you will imagine yourself acting very holy, as you seek to live an impeccable, saintly life throughout your stay with God. What you don’t readily realize is that you are Yahweh’s guest 24/7 around the clock, for you live permanently in His sight.
Even so, it’s an awesome thought to picture yourself living at close quarters with God in all His holiness. It’s to this exalted realm of holiness that King David transports us in Ps 15:
"LORD, who shall sojourn in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?
"He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh truth in his heart.
"He that slandereth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his friend, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
"In whose eyes a reprobate is despised; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
"He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved" (vv. 1-5 RV).
Only God can Qualify Us to be His Guests!
Using the words "sojourn" (lodge) and "tabernacle" (tent), both of which denote temporariness of stay, David emphasizes the point that even for a moment God cannot countenance unrighteous behaviour (Hab. 1:13), much less put up with it over a prolonged period with regard to those who wish to dwell permanently on His holy hill of Zion.
On a deeper level, however, "tabernacle" stay and "holy hill" residency go beyond just representing varying lengths of stay; they speak two spiritual truths to us today: our bodies are God’s temporary abode awaiting redemption and transformation at the return of Christ (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:1-5; Rom. 8:23; Eph. 4:30; Phil. 3:20-21), and we are members of God’s Church of the heavenly Mount Zion (Heb. 12:22-24).
Both situations require that we put on excellent godly behaviour or we disqualify ourselves. The first element of this behaviour is "uprightness" which denotes blameless conduct stemming from godly ethic and personal integrity. Admittedly, given our fallen human nature, uprightness is a feat no man can lay claim to (Eccl. 7:29; Rom. 3:10-12), but that does not mean it’s not achievable!
In Genesis 17:1 Yahweh appeared to 99 year-old Abraham and said to him: "I am El Shaddai! Walk before me and be perfect" (Hebraic Roots Bible). So then, while we lack perfection, God is able to make us perfect or upright (Heb. ‘tamiym’ Strong’s #8549). As in the case of Abraham (Gen. 26:5), one way Yah makes us upright is to give us His perfect law which instills integrity in us through our keeping of it on the basis of grace. David wrote in Ps 19:
"The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
"The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
"The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
"More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
"Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
“Who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults.
"Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression" (vv. 7-13).
As an indication of how important uprightness is to God, Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 that, along with holiness, God foreordained that His people should be upright or blames before Him:
"According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
"Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
"To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:4-6).
From the text, the implications of a failure to be "blameless" are dire. Because God, exercising "the good pleasure of His will", predestined us to be His adopted children through Christ (which is what our pre-Adamic selection is all about), "we should be holy and blameless before Him in love". And the overall purpose is for "praise" to be given to "the glory of His grace" by which He has "made us accepted" in His Beloved Son!
Take out the ‘blameless’ conduct, and the life God foreordained for us ceases to exist. What then becomes of the "praise" due God?
We need to constantly remind ourselves that God has called us to Himself that we may be "blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15). It’s a life we have been called into by His grace (Tit. 2:11-12), and we must live it by grace.
Because a holy life of blamelessness is not a myth but completely achievable in Christ, God’s blameless saints will stand on the heavenly Mount Zion with the Lamb (Rev. 14:1-5; cp 1 Thess. 5:23).
Closely allied to uprightness is righteousness, and that is also a characteristic of a true saint who has been born again by God (1 John 2:29) and has His law in His heart (Isa. 51:7).
That, of course, would mean that such an individual would be truthful in his dealings with others, being a quality welling from his innermost being as communicated in the Hebrew text: ‘"one who speaks truth in his heart’”; or “’one who speaks truth [that is] in his heart’. This apparently refers to formulating a truthful statement in one’s mind and then honestly revealing that statement in one’s speech" (NET Bible Footnote).
In contrast, "The wicked are estranged [from God] from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies" (Ps. 58:3). But as believers we have been told to put away lying and speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:25; cp Zech. 8:16). Remember, false speaking is one of the seven abominations God hates (Prov. 6:16-19; cp Ps 12:2-4).
As one who wishes to hobnob with the Holy One, look deep down within your heart, do you satisfy the first set of requirements that must be met to stay with God? Are you upright in your everyday life, doing right things that please God? Are you honest in speech? If not, repent and seek His help.
For the second set of requirements, slander is disallowed, along with malicious harm and rumour-mongering (Ps. 15:3). All three vices are of the same kind–crimes of the mouth! And God passionately abhors them. In Lev. 19:16 God likens slander or tale-bearing to murder: " You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD" (ESV). It is the same in Ezek. 22:9, if not more strongly worded: "There are men in you who slander to shed blood, and people in you who eat on the mountains; they commit lewdness in your midst" (ESV).
But in Proverbs, the language takes on the dramatic to convey the imponderably awful effect of slander on its victims—grave emotional pain, not to mention the resultant character assassination: "The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly" (Prov. 18:8). No wonder God describes those who slander as "a generation whose teeth are like swords, and their jaw teeth like knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men" (Prov. 30:14 MKJV; cp Ps. 57:4).
A foul, slanderous mouth will not be admitted into holy God’s presence. Except a person on the same ethical wavelength with Him. Hence he who will dwell in His tabernacle must look on a vile person with contempt, but honour those who fear the LORD (Ps. 15:4a).
God cannot and does not put up with evil–and those who wish to associate with Him should neither. To do otherwise– condone evil—is to offer effectively passive support for what God forbids. Divine justice sees both evil doer and ‘condoner’ as partners in crime and judges them equally guilty: "Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them" (Rom. 1:32 ESV).
Rather than giving tacit support to those who provoke God by their misdeeds, we are to honour, approve of, and cheer on those who fear the LORD. The Apostle Paul exhorts us in Phil. 4:8: "Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things" (MKJV).
So, do you have a friend or relative whose behaviour is awful, but somehow you can’t muster courage to tell him to his face that he needs to change? Are you by your actions and inactions giving him the false impression that all is well, even though you know it’s not?
CHANGE to avoid God’s fearsome judgment.
As a manifestation of your God-like character, make honesty your policy at all costs (Ps.15:4b). Stick to your promises; don’t promise knowing full well that you cannot fulfill it. Let your ‘yea’ be ‘yea’ and your ‘nay’ nay’ (Matt. 5:33-37). Yah disapproves of double talk!
Finally, don’t abuse your position of privilege: exploit neither the vulnerable (for example, by charging interest on loans given out) nor wrongfully deny anyone his right (by giving false testimony in court, etc) for your personal gain (Ps. 15:5a). Should you meet this and all the foregoing requirements, the Divine assurance is that you will never be moved out of His sight!
The only condition under which God will ever dwell or associate with a place or person is Holiness: "Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity; whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, even with the contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones" (Isa. 57:15; see Heb. 12:14). Because a contrite and humble person is receptive to the voice of God and obeys His commandments, he is eventually transformed from both inward and outward impurity to purity in his inner being and external conduct.
His Guests are Partakers of His Nature
In a nutshell, the only ones who live in the holy Presence of God are those who are holy like Him (1 Pet. 1:15-16) and have His heart of love and purity (Rom. 5:4; Matt. 5:8). These are the ones who through heartfelt repentance and the baptism of the Holy Spirit have become "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world" (2 Pet. 1:4). On a daily basis, this work of the Spirit wrought in the spirit is lived on the outside as proof that one has truly vacated the base living of fallen mankind and now dwells in the holy tabernacle of Yahweh on His holy hill of Zion! Amen!