A Prophecy of the Resurrection, Part 1

By James Boice

Theme: The Old Testament and Jesus’ Resurrection

In this week’s lessons we learn from one text how the Old Testament points ahead to Jesus’ resurrection.

Scripture: Psalm 16:1-11

On the first Lord’s day, following hard upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ, two people were walking to their home town of Emmaus from Jerusalem. They were disciples of Jesus, and the name of one of them was Cleopas (Luke 24:18). They were despondent because of the death of their Master. They had heard reports of an empty tomb and of angels who had told some of the women that Jesus was “risen, as he said.” But they did not doubt that Jesus was really dead and that their dream of a Messiah who should reign upon the throne of his father David, the dream that had inspired them for the three long years of Christ’s ministry, was over. While they were making their way along their homeward path Jesus appeared to them, although they did not recognize him. “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” he asked.

They replied by an offhand reference to the “things” that had taken place in Jerusalem.

“What things?” Jesus asked.

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they answered. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him, but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…”

Jesus chided them for their slowness to believe all that the prophets had spoken. “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” he asked them. Then we are told, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (see Luke 24:13-27). That is one sermon I wish I could have heard. It was the Lord’s own sermon on the resurrection. It was a sermon in which he expounded the Old Testament texts that had bearing on his prophesied triumph over the grave on that first Easter morning.

What texts do you suppose Jesus spoke of? We cannot know the full answer to that question, of course, though we have strong indications of some of the texts due to the way they were later used by the early disciples in their preaching.1 But one text we can be very certain of is Psalm 16:11. This is because Peter used a section of this psalm to preach the resurrection in his great sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2:25-28; citing Psalm 16:8-11), and because Paul likewise used a shorter portion of it in his sermon to the Jews in the synagogue of Antioch early in his ministry (Acts 13:35-37; citing Psalm 16:10). Psalm 16:10 says, “You will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will you let your Holy one see decay.”

If ever there was an Old Testament prophecy of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is this statement. It makes Psalm 16 the third specifically messianic psalm in the Psalter, after the second and eighth.

Study Questions:

  1. Why were the Emmaus disciples despondent on their way back from Jerusalem?
  2. How did Jesus both console and instruct these disciples? What is its significance for us today?

For Further Study: James Boice’s three-volume set on the Psalms is available in paperback, and is a wonderful resource for personal, family, and group studies. Order your copy and receive 25% off the regular price.

1Psalm 110:1, the Old Testament verse most quoted in the New Testament, must have been one of them. So also were Psalm 118:22, cited in Acts 4:11; Psalm 2:1, 2, quoted in Acts 4:25, 26 and 13:33; Isaiah 53, which Philip expounded to the Ethiopian in Acts 8; and many others. The first chapter of Hebrews alone refers to seven Old Testament texts, and there are four more in chapter 2. To these specific texts the great themes and images of the Old Testament could also be added.

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A Man after God’s Heart, Part 4

By James Boice

Theme: How We Treat and Regard Others

In this week’s lessons we look at the six characteristics David gives to describe someone of whom God approves.

Scripture: Psalm 15:1-5

3. His conduct. The third couplet is almost also a parallel to the second, for there is much in common between speaking the truth and not slandering another in couplet two, and doing a neighbor no wrong and casting no slur on him in couplet three. But there is a difference too, and the difference seems to be that in this parallelism the idea moves beyond mere words to actions. This is clear in the first half: “Who does his neighbor no wrong.” It is probably also what is meant in part two, for although casting a slur usually suggests verbal abuse to us, a slur can also be cast—perhaps more often is cast—by how we actually treat another person.

The question is: Do you treat other people with respect, especially those who have a less important position in life than you do? Or do you snub them? Do you talk down to them? Are you mean? These verses tell us that all such things displease God and are a barrier to fellowship with him.

4. His values. The fourth couplet, like the third, is also dealing with our responses to other people. But here the idea is not so much how we treat them but how we regard them. It has to do with values. I would express it by asking, who are your models? Who do you look up to? Whose actions and character do you find offensive?

Here is one of the saddest things about today’s younger generation. A few years ago a government commission in Canada studied the characteristics of today’s young people, and one of the things they discovered is that the youth of today have no heroes. This is hard for most older people to appreciate, for we did and do have heroes. There are people we have looked up to and have tried to be like. But the youth of today generally have no heroes, no models. Without heroes they tend just to drift along.

But there is one thing worse than having no models, and that is having the wrong ones. And I suspect that, in spite of the Canadian study, many young people are actually drifting in this direction now. They admire the rock singer who has an abominable lifestyle but is nevertheless rich and famous. They admire the crack dealer who prances around infancy clothes and sports gold jewelry. And the upright people? People who work hard for a living? Fathers who provide for their families? Mothers who are faithful in caring for and raising their children? People who sacrifice for others? The young couldn’t care less about such people, and many older people don’t think much of them either. One social critic says, “We have reached a point where people would rather be envied than admired.”

Not so the righteous! We are told in the psalm that those God approves “despise a vile man but honor those who fear the Lord.”

Study Questions:

  1. How is the third couplet different from the second?
  2. What does the fourth couplet seem to be dealing with?

Reflection: What characteristics mark the current heroes and role models of the culture today? How is that impacting society? What traits should Christians admire and seek to practice?

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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

A Man after God’s Heart, Part 5

By James Boice

Theme: Integrity and the Right Use of Money

In this week’s lessons we look at the six characteristics David gives to describe someone of whom God approves.

Scripture: Psalm 15:1-5

5. His integrity. The fifth couplet contains an incomplete parallelism in which two additional parts need to be supplied mentally. As it stands, the couplet is the simple phrase “who keeps his oath even when it hurts.” In full form it would read something like: who keeps his oath at all times, and is faithful even when it hurts.

The effect of the omissions is to shorten the phrase and highlight part of it, in this case the words “even when it hurts.” That is the important thing. No one has much trouble keeping his or her word when to do so is to the person’s own advantage. You would have to be unbalanced not to. But how about when the conditions have changed and the promise, agreement or contract is no longer to your advantage? Do you honor your promise then? Do you fulfill the contract? Or do you try to find some way to get out of what you had committed yourself to? The psalmist says that God approves people who keep their oaths even when it hurts them to do so.

6. His use of money. The final characteristic of the person who is after God’s heart is that he or she has a right approach to money. I put it this way, because I am convinced that the chief concern in this verse is not with receiving interest for money loaned, but with whom the interest is taken from. The second half concerns greed winning out over justice.

The reason the first half is not a simple denunciation of lending money for interest is that the Old Testament prohibited this only in the case of Jews taking interest from other Jews (Deut. 23:19, 20), and this is usually also explained as a case in which a wealthy person is taking advantage of a person who is needy (Exod. 22:25; Lev. 25:35–37). The Lord’s parable about the talents suggests that God did not prohibit borrowing money for legitimate business matters. The best Old Testament illustration of the abuse of this principle is in Nehemiah 5, where the wealthy were taking advantage of the poor among the exiles when all should have been helping and supporting one another. The poor complained to Nehemiah, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery…We are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others” (Neh. 5:4, 5). The problem was that those who had money were putting their personal gain before the well-being of their neighbors. They were putting money before people.

That is what they are doing in the second part of verse 5 of our psalm: taking bribes. Only here the offense is also against justice. It concerns the courts, which the wealthy in Israel seemed always to control. Putting these two concerns together, we have a picture of one who not only does not use his money wrongly; he does not get his money wrongly either.

So there is a portrait of a person who pleases God. It is a picture of the character God wants to see in you. Does he see it? Is it happening? It must be, if you are his. If you aspire to this, the psalm ends with an encouraging promise for you. It says, “He who does these things will never –

be shaken.” It says, in response to the opening question, that not only will such a person dwell in God’s sanctuary, on his holy hill; in addition, nothing will ever be able to shake him out of it. If you are God’s, you may be shaken, but you will never be shaken loose.

Study Questions:

  1. What is the example given for the fifth couplet concerning integrity? What other applications of integrity can you think of?
  2. What is usury? What is the meaning of the last couplet about money?

Application: Having studied the six characteristics from this psalm of one who is approved by the Lord, what do you need to do differently or better in response?

For Further Study: Order your copy of James Boice’s three-volume set on the Psalms for 25% off the regular price.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Ship of Fools, Part 4

By James Boice

Theme: The Way of the Fool

In these lessons we see the absolute foolishness of atheism, and that true wisdom can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture: Psalm 14:1-7

The third stanza of Psalm 14 describes the way of the fool, which we have now seen to be the way of the entire human race apart from God’s special, saving intervention. There are two things said about us. First, we never seem to learn. We are practical materialists; that is, we are relentless in our efforts to use others for our advantage, profiting from them. We will not learn that “man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3; cf. Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4). And we are prayerless. We “do not call on the Lord,” because we believe that we can manage very well without him.

Here are two illustrations of this truth. Recently I heard Dr. Joel Nederhood, the radio preacher of the Christian Reformed Church, tell of being in Moscow and attending a booksellers’ convention. The fascinating thing about this convention was that, in this age of glasnost (the new openness in the Soviet Union), the American Bible Society was present and was giving away Bibles. There was a long line of people patiently waiting to receive these Bibles and, as Nederhood told it, this line stretched several hundred feet out into the display area where it passed in front of a neglected booth manned by seventy-year-old Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the most famous of American atheists, who sat there glowering.

She must have been thinking, “What fools these Russians are to stand in line for Bibles. They should be buying books about atheism from me.” But it was she, not they, who was the fool. For they had tried atheism and had found it wanting. She has lived about as long as Communism has ruled Russia, but she has learned nothing.

I came across another illustration of our inability to learn in these areas in an essay by Joseph Addison, the eighteenth century prose writer, who is quoted by Spurgeon in his Treasury of David. Addison had been shipboard with a particularly vile person when, as it happened, the ship was overtaken by a gale. The passenger was the only one severely frightened. But he was so frightened that he went to the chaplain, fell on his knees and confessed that he had been a denier of God and an atheist ever since he had come of age.

It soon got around the ship that there was an atheist on the upper deck, and the common sailors who, said Addison, had never heard the word “atheist” before, at first supposed that it was a rare kind of fish. But when they learned that it is a man who denies God they were frightened themselves and suggested, not quietly, that “it would be a good deed to heave him overboard.” However, the ship soon came near land, and when the penitent saw that they were not going to perish after all, he repudiated his conversion, begging the passengers not to say a word to anyone of what had happened, and went back to his openly wicked ways.

That part of the story alone would make my point, but there is more. After two days on shore this man ran into one of the other passengers again, and the passenger reminded him of his new-found piety on board the ship. The atheist denied it, and the argument got so fierce that it ended in a duel in which the atheist was run through with his opponent’s sword. Addison said that at this point he “became as good a Christian as he was at sea—till he found that his wound was not mortal,” at which point he relapsed again. The last Addison heard of him he had become what in those days was called “a free thinker” and was writing foolish books about religion.5 The fear that he felt when he was in danger disappeared when the trouble was past. He did not learn the spiritual lessons that these experiences should have produced.

Study Questions:

  1. What is the first thing said about the fool in the third stanza of this psalm?
  2. In verse 4 evildoers are described as those who devour the Lord’s people. How have you seen that to be true?

Application: Is there someone you know who has been taught Christian truth but who nevertheless seems to be outside the kingdom as one who does not really understand what the Christian life entails? What will you do to try to help them come to understand what salvation really means?

5See C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. la, Psalms 1-26, p. 169. The story is from one of Addison’s essays in The Tattler.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

Ship of Fools, Part 5

By James Boice

Theme: Calm Hope of Deliverance

In these lessons we see the absolute foolishness of atheism, and that true wisdom can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Scripture: Psalm 14:1-7

Not only do we never learn, but the second thing that is said about us in this stanza is that we are occasionally “overwhelmed with dread” (v. 5). The psalmist expresses this in a strange way, saying literally, as the New International Version indicates: “There they are, overwhelmed with dread…” which has led many writers to wonder what specific “there” he is referring to. Where does this take place? When is the moment at which those who deny God are so moved? Some have suggested that this is fear which will emerge only at the Final Judgment. It is what Jesus seemed to speak of when he described the ungodly crying out for the mountains and hills to fall upon them and cover them in that day (Luke 23:30). Others have suggested that it is fear evoked by some calamity, as in Addison’s story about the panicked sea passenger.

I think it is none of these but is rather what we would call an inner psychological dread. In proof I cite Psalm 53:3. Psalm 53 is the psalm which is an almost exact repetition of Psalm 14, as I said earlier. But at this verse there is an important variation, an addition. After the words “There they are, overwhelmed with dread,” Psalm 53 inserts “where there was nothing to dread.” In other words, the fear described is an inner fear, occasioned by no visible cause.

To put it another way, no one is threatening these unbelieving persons. They seem secure, as the wicked often do. But in their quiet moments, deep in their hearts, they sense that if this is a moral universe, as they suspect it must be, then they are guilty of many sins and will undoubtedly suffer for them. They are unnerved by this and shudder violently.

The psalmist is not shuddering, however. And the reason is that he has learned what unbelievers have not learned, namely, that “God is present in the company of the righteous” and that “the LORD is their refuge” (v. 6). He concludes with a prayer so tranquil that it is almost a sigh. It is a prayer for deliverance: “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad” (v. 7). It is not possible for us to get to that quiet position of trust and confidence by ourselves. For if we have understood this psalm rightly, we know that we are in the exact position of those who cry out, “There is no God,” unless God himself makes his person and ways known to us.

How does he do it? He does so in Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians the Apostle Paul is talking about wisdom, and he is contrasting the true wisdom of the gospel with the apparent wisdom of the wise, who regard the gospel as foolishness. God has destroyed this human wisdom, he says. And he has given us Jesus, “who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). That is it exactly! Left to ourselves, our minds run to utter foolishness, and we act the fool too. But in Christ we find a wisdom from God able to save us and lead us in the way of righteousness.

Study Questions:

  1. What is the second thing said about fools in this third stanza? What explanations of this have been offered, and which one does Dr. Boice prefer?
  2. How does Jesus demonstrate the wisdom of God? What does this mean?

Reflection: How have you experienced the reality that “God is present in the company of the righteous” (v. 5) and is the “refuge” (v. 6) of those who call out to him?

For Further Study: Jesus also knew what it was like to talk with skeptics. Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from John 3, “Christ Speaks to Skeptics.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

A Man after God’s Heart, Part 1

By James Boice

Theme: The Question of the Psalm

In this week’s lessons we look at the six characteristics David gives to describe someone of whom God approves.

Scripture: Psalm 15:1-5

About the time I was preparing a study of this psalm I also preached on Romans 8:4, pointing out that the end for which God saves us is not merely that we might escape from hell but that we might live righteous lives. The words of the text said that God condemned sin in Christ “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”

Shortly after preaching that sermon I received a note from someone, asking, “What is this righteous requirement of the law we are to meet? What exactly is required of us?” It was a good question, and I answered it as you might expect. The law is the law given to us in the Old Testament, and the righteous requirements of the law are what we normally call the moral law. The moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments, as interpreted by the rest of the Bible, and the best summary of the moral law is by Jesus, who spoke of it in terms of the first and second great commandments. The first is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And the second one is, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 38; see Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18). This is the standard to which God is leading his people. What God wants for us is that we might be like Jesus Christ.

This is the question David was also asking when he composed the fifteenth psalm: “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill” (v. 1)? That is, what is the character of the person God approves? Or, as we could also say, how must we live to enjoy the fullness of fellowship with God?

The outline of the psalm is simple. David first asks this question in verse 1. Then he provides a series of representative answers.1

However, we have to understand a few things before we begin. First, this is a question about godly living and not a question about justification. The two are related, of course, but they are not the same question. If we ask, “How can a man or woman become right with God?” there is only one answer. It is by faith in Jesus Christ as one’s own personal Lord and Savior. The Old Testament saints looked forward to his coming, while we look back. But if we ask, “What is the character of the man or woman God approves?” the answer involves the moral law. The justified person is not made right with God by keeping the moral law; it is by the work of Christ. But if he has been justified, he will necessarily begin to keep it, moving increasingly in this direction. This is because there is never any justification apart from regeneration, and regeneration means that the Spirit of God is at work in us to bring us into increasing conformity to the character of Christ.

The second thing we need to understand is what I hinted at earlier when I said that David responds to the question of verse 1 with representative answers. This means that the items listed in verses 2-5 here are not all-inclusive. One way we know this is to compare this list with the lists provided to almost identical questions in Psalm 24:3, 4 and Isaiah 33:14-17. Psalm 24 asks, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” It answers, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” and does not serve idols. There is some overlap with Psalm 15, but the points are not identical. In a similar way, Isaiah 33 asks, “Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?” It replies: “He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil” (vv. 14, 15). Again, the parallels are close, but the specifics vary. Each passage supplies a representative list of character traits to work on.

Study Questions:

  1. What is the moral law, and how does Jesus summarize it?
  2. What is the difference between justification and godly living? How are they related?

Application: As we prepare to look at the six characteristics of upright character that David lists, read Galatians 5:22-23. In what ways do you need to improve upon any of them?

For Further Study: Justification by faith in Jesus Christ and holiness cannot be separated. But what does that mean for Old Testament saints? Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Faith Credited as Righteousness.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

1The question and answer structure of Psalm 15 has in recent years led some commentators to identify it as “entrance liturgy,” referring to what is imagined to have happened when a worshiper approached the temple. He was to have asked the priest, “Who may dwell in the sanctuary?” and to have received the answer contained in verses 2-5. No doubt, the psalm could have been used in this way from time to time, just as we might use it in the same way in a liturgical church setting today. But like so much modern work on the psalms, the supposition of such a common liturgical use is mere speculation. The Old Testament has no narrative suggestions of such procedure, and there are even elements in the psalm which are against it, most notably the fact that it is addressed to the “LORD” (v. 1) and not a priest. There is no reason why the psalm should have been used any differently in Israel’s worship than our own (cf. Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 150; and H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 146.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

A Man after God’s Heart, Part 2

By James Boice

Theme: Hebrew Parallelism

In this week’s lessons we look at the six characteristics David gives to describe someone of whom God approves.

Scripture: Psalm 15:1-5

There is one more introductory item, and it has to do with the way the answers provided in Psalm 15 are to be handled. How many are there, for instance? Some commentators find ten items and seem attracted to this number, probably because it suggests the Ten Commandments.2 Stewart Perowne counts eleven particulars.3 In my opinion the best way to approach the answers in these verses is by giving attention to the Hebrew parallelism.

Parallelism in the chief characteristic of Hebrew poetry. English poetry is most often marked by rhyme and meter, but neither of these is in Hebrew. There is a certain kind of emphasis in the lines, which corresponds to our meter, but there is no rhyme at all and, as I say, the chief characteristic of Hebrew verse is the parallel lines. Usually the idea of the first line is repeated in the second with slight variations, but it is not always that simple. Sometimes the lines involve mere repetition, as in the first part of verse 2: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous…”

Sometimes they express a contrast, as in the couplet that ends verse 2 and begins verse 3: “Who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue. . .” Sometimes they have the form: “Not only this, but also that.” The second half of verse 4 is an example of this construction: “Who keeps his oath even when it hurts…”4

I deal with parallelism here for two reasons. First, although there have been many examples in the psalms thus far, this is the first psalm in which this feature has been so prominent and in which, therefore, it is easy to see some of the important variations. Second, and more important, to recognize the parallelism gives us a proper way to handle the material in Psalm 15. When we recognize that the verses have this paired construction, we see at once that there are six couplets and that each contains an independent idea. In other words, each couplet introduces a separate characteristic of the person who is approved by God. The couplets are the psalm’s outline.

What do these six couplets cover then? The answer is that they cover the approved man’s character, speech, conduct, values, integrity and use of money. A person who has these characteristics is a person after God’s heart.

Study Questions:

  1. What is Hebrew parallelism? What are some different forms of it?
  2. How does parallelism determine the outline in this psalm?

2Craigie traces the origin of this number to S. Mowinckle (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 150).
3J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary of the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, p. 187. Original edition 1878-1879.
4There are other types of parallelism which are not illustrated by the couplets of this psalm. For a good analysis of these see Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms (Downers Grove, IL and Leicester, England: Intervarsity, 1988), pp. 95-106.


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Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.

A Man after God’s Heart, Part 3

By James Boice

Theme: An Approved Person’s Character and Speech

In this week’s lessons we look at the six characteristics David gives to describe someone of whom God approves.

Scripture: Psalm 15:1-5

1. His character. The first couplet containing an answer to David’s question seems at first glance to be a contrasting parallel. The first line is expressed negatively: “He whose walk is blameless,” that is, “without blame.” The second line is expressed positively: he “does what is righteous.” Actually, the two halves are as close as they can get, for the word translated “blameless” in our text is the Hebrew word tamim, which is not negative at all but means rather that which is “whole” or “sound.” It refers to a person whose character, as we might say, is morally well-rounded and grounded. This person is not just strong in one area but weak in others. He strives to keep all the commandments. What is more, he does not vacillate in his commitment to them. There are no obvious flaws or “off and on” times in this person’s character. The person is the same Monday through Saturday as on Sunday morning.

When I say that the two halves of the couplet are as close as they can get, I do not mean that the second half is nothing but repetition, however. The second part of a parallel almost always adds something to the original thought, and in this case the new element is the verb “does.” The upright person not only has a passively upright character, as it were. He or she is also actively engaged in doing righteousness. To use a New Testament expression of the idea, such an individual is one who feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, welcomes the stranger, clothes the naked, cares for the sick and visits the prisoner (Matt. 25:34–39).

James, the Lord’s brother, is talking about the same thing in that well-known discussion of the relation of faith to works, where he says: “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has not deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17). It is the point I made earlier. Justification can never be separated from regeneration. Genuine faith always expresses itself in right action.

2. His speech. The second couplet deals with the approved person’s speech and is a contrast. The first line tells what he does, the second line what he does not. What he does is “speak the truth.” Whenever you talk with such a person, you know that he is “telling it like it is.” He is not just saying what you want to hear. She is not using speech to flatter you in order to get something out of you. We remember that complaints about these wrong uses of speech have already been found in Psalms 10 and 12.

There are also a few other things here. First, although the Hebrew word “truth” includes the idea of what is correct or accurate as opposed to what is false, the essential idea is bigger than that, coming closest to what we would call “being trustworthy.” Truth is something you can count on. Therefore, the one who speaks truth is a trustworthy person. That is why God the Father is described as the “true God” (John 1:3), why Jesus termed himself “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), why the Holy Spirit is named the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), and why the Word of God is called “truth” (John 7:17). It is because you can rely on God. Obviously, God’s people are to be like him in this important characteristic.

Second, a person who is like this does not slander others. He does not gossip. Isn’t this a chief sin in the church of Jesus Christ today? Aren’t many bold in gossiping about and harming others with their tongues—not the unsaved, but Christians? I think more damage has been done to the church and its work by gossip, criticism and slander than by any other single sin. So don’t do it. Bite your tongue before you criticize another Christian. The great seventeenth century commentator Matthew Poole wrote, “Pity your brethren; let it suffice that godly ministers and Christians are loaded with reproaches by wicked men—there is no need that you should combine with them in this diabolical work.”5

Study Questions:

  1. From the lesson, what does “blameless” mean in verse 2?
  2. What is the second couplet, and what kind of parallelism is used?
  3. What is the main idea of the Hebrew concept of truth?

Reflection: How have you seen gossip, criticism, and slander hurt the church? Do you need to work on these areas and be a better encourager of other Christians?

5Qouoted by C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1a, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p. 183.


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