By Rev. Julian Duckworth
Psalm 15. The character of those who may dwell with the Lord
This is a short psalm - just five verses. It aims to describe the character of those who are able to dwell with the Lord. To dwell with the Lord really means to be faithful to Him, and obedient to the Word, and to apply this to the way you live your life. That is the general meaning. This psalm brings out specific details.
The opening verse is a classic example of a very common way of writing in the psalms. It has the form of a repeated second half of the verse but in different words. We could call it a couplet. This form contains an important spiritual meaning, in its two parts. Spiritual life and activity involve the unity of what is good and what is true. All that is good is there in what is true. All that is true is based on what is good. So, in this first verse the tabernacle stands for the good of love, and the holy hill or mountain of holiness stands for the truths of doctrine. Both must be present in the Word, and then in our lives. (Divine Love and Wisdom 409)
The character of such a person is then described. The first part is an obvious one, even in the literal meaning of the words: someone who is upright in their heart, upright in their conduct and true in the words that come from their heart. Such a person is genuine. Such a person can be said to be transparent and authentic.
It is helpful to see here how spiritual principles and beliefs come down from our mind and heart into the way in which we actually live our lives, responding to people, practising honesty, and living in integrity. (Life 1)
While overall integrity speaks for itself, the psalm goes on to specify further characteristics of the godly person. Verse 2 has this list: ‘He who does not…’ backbite with his tongue, do evil to his neighbour, take up a reproach against his friend.
This is the area of our consideration towards our neighbours. It is put in the "do not" form because regeneration starts by shunning evil; it is not so much by trying to be good, but to choose to not do harm or hurt. (Arcana Caelestia 10109.2)
Next there is a comment that a godly person despises a vile person and honours those who fear the Lord. It is important to understand that despising is not directed to the person but to their vileness, and how it is being shown. The spiritual meaning of this verse is our need to discern between what we see as evil being done and good being done, even though we cannot know the underlying intentions that another person may have, unlike the Lord who does know and indeed knows all things. (True Christian Religion 59)
The next characteristic is to do with unswerving loyalty to one’s given commitment and promise. Even though this may bring suffering or degradation, it remains steadfast. The spiritual meaning here is about our ultimate loyalty and commitment to the Lord and to what we believe. It needs to be constant - the solid ground on which we walk - so that we do not get caught up in changing values or self-interest in what we are. (Arcana Caelestia 2842.9)
The last characteristic of the godly person is pictured in terms of money, investment and bribes all of which become means of profiting. The godly person does not invest money to gain interest or take a bribe to harm an innocent person. Spiritually, this is not about money; it is about doing what is good for its own sake, expecting nothing in return. It is about not being part of anything which harms innocence, trust, sincerity, or any other quality in people’s lives which is the means of being in heaven because they are heavenly. (Arcana Caelestia 7840)
This psalm ends, “He who does these things shall never be moved.”