ďThe Question and The AnswerĒ† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††August 17, 2014
SI:† Weíre spending the summer in the Psalms.
Even though summer vacation is over and school has started,
†† my plan has been to go to the end of this month.
†† So today and two more Sundays.
Charles Spurgeon wrote a famous commentary on the Psalms called
†† The Treasury of David.† Itís been in print for 130 years.
†† You can buy it on Amazon.† But itís also free online and easier to use.
Spurgeonís genius was his use of the English language,
†† and his ability to express ideas in such a memorable way.
He writes in The Treasury of David:
†† ††I call this Psalm ďThe Question and The Answer.Ē
INTRO:† I heard a tribute to Robin Williams this week on NPR.
The news commentator began by asking this question:
†† Why would a popular, successful comedian and actor take his life?
Thatís a provocative question.
It touches on the deep things of lifeócontentment, purpose, meaning.
It raises the topic of human frailtyóour physical, emotional, and spiritual frailtyó
† †and the pain of hopelessness.†
It calls into doubt the values our culture deems successful and admirable.
And it brings to mind that one big thing secular people avoid like the plagueó
†† the afterlife, the judgment, meeting your Maker.
But Psalm 15 starts with an even more provocative question.
†† As Iíve told you, Charles Spurgeon called it, The Question.†
†† William Plumber, another old Baptist, said:† There is no more important question.
LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? †Who may live on your holy hill?
†† Thatís actually two questions.
†† Because thatís the way the Hebrews wrote their poetryó
†† as you have probably noticed.† Itís called parallelism.†
They stated something,
†† and then restated it in a different way to advance the thought,
†† or to look at it from another angle.† .
Unfortunately, the New International Version covers that advance in thought up.
Listen to the English Standard Version, which is a more literal translation:
†† O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? †Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
What was the Lordís tent?† It was the tabernacle.†
† †That movable church the Israelites took with them through the desert.
As they sojourned through the desert on their way to the Promised Land,
†† whenever they stopped, the Levites would erect the Tabernacle,
†† and the people would come and worship.†
What was the Lordís holy hill?† Mount Zion, temple mount in Jerusalem.
†† The temple wasnít built in Davidís time,
†† but remember he got materials and plans† ready for his son Solomon.†
David knew that hill would become the permanent residence of God, so to speak.
So David asks this double question:
Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
†† Who will you allow to walk with you through this life?
And Lord, who shall dwell on your holy hill?
†† Who will you allow to live with you permanently in heaven?
In other words:†
†† Lord, who will you accept in this life and in the life to come?
That is The Question.
D. James Kennedy had a unique way of asking the question:
†† ďSuppose you were to die tonight and stand before God,
†† and he were to ask you:† ĎWhy should I let you into my heaven?í
†† What would you say?Ē
Many people never bother to ask themselves the question.† ††
†† They go through life clueless about spiritual realities, focusing only on
†† the physical and material.† Their god is their belly.
Some people are outright offended by the question,
†† because it implies that God judges us and that we have t answer to him.
And, of course, many people who seem to ask the question really donít,
†† because they donít want to hear Godís answer.† They have their own answer.
God accepts you if you are sincere.†
†† God accepts you if you are a good person.
†† God accepts everybody, except maybe really bad people like Hitler.
†† God accepts people who have suffered great pain.
But to honestly ask the question means that you ask God and listen to his answer,
†† and his answer is found in his Word.†
There are other places the question is asked in Scripture,
†† but before us this morning is Psalm 15.†
So letís look at it under two big headings for you note-takers.
1.† The Answer to The Question
2.† Your Response to the Answer
MP#1† The Answer to The Question
Who does God accept in this life and the life to come?
The answer in a nutshell is that God accepts people who are obedient to him.
†† The detailed answer that David gives in verses 2-5 is a sort of spiritual CAT scan
†† that examines six key areas of internal spiritual anatomy.
Iíll give them to you as we go.
1.† God accepts people who obey him in their walk.
†† He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous.
The image of life as a walk is common in Scripture.
†† Lord said to Abraham, ďI am God Almighty, walk before me and be blameless.Ē
†† Psalm 1, the blessed man is one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.
Your walk is the direction of your life.
†† The Lord says that he accepts people whose walk is blameless.
†† The entire trajectory of your life must be toward him.
And just so what that means is clear, David adds, ďand who does what is righteous.Ē
†† Righteousness is Godís moral law, summarized in 10 Commandments.†
Everything the Commandments forbid and everything they require, you must do.
†† There can be no compartmentalizing.†
†† You canít say, God welcome to my house, but not that closet.
He only dwells with people blameless and righteous in their walk.
2.† God accepts people who obey him in their talk.
†† who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue
Jesus said:† Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
†† Your words reveal the true you.
A long time ago I went to Silver Springs with my grandparents.
†† We went on a glass-bottomed boat.†
†† You could see all the way down to the deep blue bottom of the spring.†
Thatís what your words areóa glass-bottomed boat for your soul.
†† As Paul Tripp once put it:† Donít say, I didnít mean to say that.
†† Say:† Please forgive me for saying exactly what was in my heart.
Notice that God doesnít accept people who simply speak the truth,
†† but only those who speak the truth from the heart, the blameless heart
Every word of gossip that you speak might be factually true.
But gossip comes from a heart motivated by bitterness, pride, delight in evil report.
†† Thatís why David mentions slander in the parallel phrase.
So God accepts the person whose talk reveals a purely obedient and good heart.†
3.† God accepts people who obey him regarding their neighbors.
†† who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman
Isnít it interesting that as David gives spiritual anatomy of the person God accepts,
†† he doesnít say anything about praying, going to church, reading Bible.
Itís not that those religious exercises are not importantóthey are.
†† But the practice of religious exercises do not reveal the true condition of the heart.
Itís not your church-going, but the way you treat your neighbor that is the real
†† spiritual CAT scan.† Itís another one of those glass-bottomed boats.
†† You can go to church every time the doors are open and be mean to people.†
Who is your neighbor?† The parallel phrase answers that:† All your fellow men.
†† The neighbors closest to you are your familyóyour spouse and children.
†† And radiating out from that, everyone with whom you are in relationship.
Someone once told me about a woman in his church who said:
†† I wish my husband would treat me like he treats our dog.
†† Every day when he comes home from work he pets the dog and says:
†† Hey girl, how you doing? †But he ignores me.†
The way you treat people who are made in Godís image reveals whether
†† or not you are a person who can live in Godís presence.
4.† God accepts people who obey him regarding their heroes.
†† who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD . . .
Who do you admire?† Whose life fascinates you and brings you pleasure?
†† When was the last time you were repulsed by someoneís behavior or attitude?
The Bible says:
I hate those who cling to worthless idols.† I hate double-minded men.† Those who love violence,
†† my soul hates.† I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:
†† haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked
†† schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man
† †who stirs up dissension among brothers.
These are sobering statements, especially in our age of celebrity.
Think of the boasting, the immorality, the divorces, the excesses, luxuries, silliness
†† of celebrity culture that is of great interest and pleasure to many Americans.
Itís absolutely at odds with the meekness and self-control that God admires.
The people you admire and find pleasure in watching, whether from a distance
†† or as close friends, are a window into your soul.
They reveal whether or not you love what God loves and hate what hates.
He accepts only those people who share his affections.†
5.† God accepts people who obey him with their commitments.
†† who keeps his oath even when it hurts . . .
Iíve done three weddings this summer.† The vows go like this:
†† I, John, take you, Mary, to be my wedded wife,† OR
†† I, Mary, take you, John, to be my wedded husband,
†† and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful
†† husband in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow,
†† as long as we both shall live.
Itís not hard to keep vows in health, in plenty, and in joyó
†† but the rubber meets the road in times of sickness, want, and sorrow.
When you promise to submit to the government and discipline of the church,
†† and promise to support the church in worship and work to the best of your ability,
†† thatís easy to do until the church calls you to repent of a specific sin,
†† or to obey God in an area of life where you want to go your own way,
†† or until the choice is between Lordís Day worship or ball tournaments.†
And how often in work or business or family life are promises made, either
†† formally or implied, but circumstances change and keeping them would not
†† be in our best interest.
God accepts people who, like him, are completely faithful in their commitments.
6.† God accepts people who obey him with their cash.
†† who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent . . .
Usury is a term we donít use much.†
†† It means excessive interest or harsh terms that are designed to trap a person
†† in a cycle of debt for the sole benefit of the lender.
Think of the poor share cropper or the miner in debt to the company store.††
†† That might not seem to apply to us.† None of us loan sharks, breaking fingers.
†† I doubt any of you are taking bribes to testify in trumped up lawsuits.
But those are just the poetic expressions David chose to make the point:
†† God does not accept anyone who loves money more than people,
†† or who uses money to manipulate people, or withholds money from needy people.
The Bible says that on the Day of Judgment, the books will be opened.
†† And itís been said that the most damning book will be your check book.
The Lord only accepts those people who worship him instead of money
†† and who have proved that by perfect use of money for a lifetime.
†† As Paul says:† Rich in good works, generous, and willing to share.
MP#2† Your Response to the Answer
So thatís the answer to the most important question:†
†† Who does God allow to live with him in this life and the life to come?
Those who obey him in their walk and their talk;
†† those who obey him regarding their neighbors and their heroes;
†† and those who obey him with their commitments and their cash.
That answer brings us with a very uncomfortable jolt to the second pointó
†† your response to the answer.
Psalm 15 does two things simultaneously.
It reveals the cancer of sin on your soul,
†† and at the same time, it gives a clear picture of a spiritually healthy soul.
You have to see both at the same time.
On the one hand, you must feel the weight of these words and be crushed by them.
†† The Great Physician has walked in with the report and heís just told you that
†† there are tumors everywhere.† You are eaten up with cancer.
You come to church on Sunday and sing songs of praises to God,
†† but before the week is over, that same mouth of yours is tearing people down.
Actually, you got into an argument this morning getting ready for church
†† and said some sharp things to let the family know how put out you were.
Iím not going to go down list and subject us again to this devastating examination.†
†† Godís moral law applied to our speech, our relationships, our promises, our
†† money excludes us all from standing in his holy presence.
This week I read this Psalm to someone who came to see me.
After I had finished, she sat there for a moment and then said:† Not me.
†† If those are the requirements for Godís holy hillónot me.†
And if you donít hear this Psalm and say:† Not me, then you donít get it.
Because only when you see yourself clearly can you then understand that this Psalm
†† is a beautiful portrait of Jesus Christ. †The answer to the question is Jesus.†
Who may stand on your holy hill?† Jesus.†
†† Who is the man with the blameless walk?† Jesus.
† †Who is the man who only spoke words of perfect truth and wisdom?† Jesus.
He loved his neighbors, even those who hated him and prayed for them.
And he kept his commitments.
†† When the Devil tried to bribe him:† Iíll give you all the kingdoms of the world.†
†† Here is a way you can avoid the cross.† Jesus said, away from me.
In the deepest, blackest night of his life, he said to his Fatheró
†† Not my will, but yours be done, and he went to the cross for you and me.
And after his perfect life was over, after the spear had pierced his side,
†† and he was wrapped in grave clothes and placed in the tombóhe rose again.
And he ascended into heaven.† He ascended the holy hill of God his Father.
†† He entered the eternal sanctuary, and there is sits at Godís right hand, ruling.
If you see your spiritual sickness and you feel convicted by these words,
†† come to the perfect man Jesus.† Receive him by faith.† Entrust yourself to him.
And through union with him, he will give you the record of his life.
†† He will cloth you in his perfection.†
In Godís eyes, his walk will be your walk, and his talk your talk.
†† And God will accept you in this life and the life to come as he accepts his Son.
That has to be your response to this Psalm.† I hope all of you have responded.
†† If you havenít, today is the day of salvation.†
†† If you have, I hope you see afresh your need for Christ.†
But that canít be your only response.† We canít stop now.
Because the answer of this Psalm is not just a revelation of the sin in your soul,
†† and the perfection of Jesus and your need for him.
†† It is also a picture of a healthy Christian soul.
When you come to faith in the Good Physician, he goes to work on you.
†† He heals you, he make you new inside, he implants new life by his Spirit.
† †He gives you both the desire and the ability to please God and obey him.
And he expects you to make every effort to become to person of Psalm 15.
Over our vacation week before last, I read a biography of Ann Judson.
†† There is a womenís college in Marion, Alabama named after her, Judson College.
Ann was the wife of Adoniram Judson, first American missionaries to Burma.†
Ann admits about herself that before she became a Christian,
†† all she cared about was parties and having fun. †Let me just give you a little taste
†† of how God changed this party girl, by his grace, into a Psalm 15 woman.
She and Adoniram sailed for Burma in 1813, miscarried on the three month voyage.†
Burma was a Buddhist country without a single Christian.
†† The Judsons did not know the language, and for their first three years,
†† never saw another Westerner.† They felt their loneliness intensely.†
They were finally able to translate a portion of John and after six years of work,
†† one Burmese man made a profession of faith.†
They continued to work and after 13 years, there were 18 Burmese Christians.
Those were hard years, and Annís health was not good.
†† She gave birth to a son, Roger William, but lost him at eight months.
She wrote a long letter to her parents, a powerful expression of her faith in Lord.
†† She describes everything about her son, what kind of baby he was, how he would
†† sometimes seem to try to hold back his tears, how he would lie still in cradle and
†† watch her with his eyes.†
She describes how she and Judson wanted carry him constantly.† She says:†
††† ďOur hearts were bound up in this child, we felt he was our earthly all, our only source of innocent recreation in this heathen land.† But God saw it was necessary to remind us of our error and strip us of our little all . . . We do not feel a disposition to murmur, or inquire of our Sovereign why he has done this.† We wish rather to sit down submissively . . . til the end for which the affliction was sent shall be accomplished.Ē
Thatís the character and faith of Ann Judson.† But let me relate just one other event.
There was war between the Emperor of Burma and the British in India.
†† So he had all foreign men arrested.† Adoniram and another missionary man were
†† but in a terrible prison where they were frequently tortured.
For the next 20 months, Ann spent every day finding food for them to keep alive,
†† walking to the prison two miles each way, making her rounds to all the Burmese
†† official to beg them for leniency.†
She was pregnant and first and then carrying her baby daughter in her arms.
†† She never had enough food to eat, her health was poor.†
One time, a corrupt official told her that if she gave him some money,
†† he would make sure the missionaries werenít mistreated.† She paid him.
But then another, higher official got wind and asked her if she had done so.
†† She said she had, and that made the lower official furious, he yelled at her.
†† Why did you do that?† Why didnít you say you gave me nothing?
†† Now I donít know what will happen to your husband.† Ann said to him:
ďBut I cannot tell a falsehood.† My religion differs from yours.† It forbids prevarication, and had you stood by me with you knife raised, I could not have said what you suggest.†
That from the once-silly party girl.† A woman who out of obedience to Jesus
†† spoke the truth from her heart, even to her own hurt.†
Interesting little detail.
The wife of that corrupt official was sitting there during that conversation.
†† So moved by Annís truthfulness, became her ally.†
You might think that you could never be a person of that godly character.
But listen to the way John Newton, the pastor and former slaver trader put it:
I am not what I ought to beóah, how imperfect and deficient!
I am not what I wish to beóI abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!
I am not what I hope to beósoon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.
Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be,
I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan;
and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge,
ďBy the grace of God I am what I am.Ē