God’s Spyglass Hill
O Lord, who may lodge [as a guest] in Your tent?Who may dwell [continually] on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity and strength of character, and works righteousness,And speaks and holds truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue,Nor does evil to his neighbor,Nor takes up a reproach against his friend; In his eyes an evil person is despised,But he honors those who fear the Lord [and obediently worship Him with awe-inspired reverence and submissive wonder].He keeps his word even to his own disadvantage and does not change it [for his own benefit]; He does not put out his money at interest [to a fellow Israelite],And does not take a bribe against the innocent.He who does these things will never be shaken.
Not far from where we lived in Southern California lies Spyglass Hill, a promontory of multibillion dollar homes with sweeping panoramic views of Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar, Saddleback Mountain, and the gorgeous blue Pacific waters flecked with white sails and flag-decked yachts.
I’ve always wanted to live on Spyglass Hill. One thing keeps me out-money.
When David writes Psalm 15, he too is looking for a place with a view. From his palace on the hill of the old city of Jerusalem, David looks upward to the hill on the north, where the temple would one day stand. Yet he also spiritually gazes far beyond into heaven and asks: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?”
Would you too like to go to heaven and dwell with God? How can you get there from here?
The Lord answers by telling us to start living now as though we are residents of His holy hill. We are to live on earth with no less than heavenly behavior.
The questions David asks in Psalm 15 are important ones, but we must never suppose we can answer them or qualify ourselves through our own effort or merit. The attributes described in Psalm are the outflow of a life surrendered fully to God. They are the evidence of our relationship with God rather than reflection of our own goodness. The fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 is exactly the same. It is produced by the Holy Spirit only through a yielded life. Paul contrasts the “works” of the flesh(what comes naturally) and the “fruit” of the Spirit(the enablement of the Spirit). Let’s look at those lists for a moment:
“Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.”
Galatians 5: 19-24
Notice that Paul is clear when he says that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. On our own we will never attain to the status of acceptable righteousness but by yielding control of our lives to the Holy Spirit, we may be “presented faultless” before the throne.
Psalm 15 mentions some things that answers the questions, “Who may lodge in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? Blamelessness is the first attribute mentioned for it captures all the following traits. “Blamelessness indicates completeness in right conduct, a life lived in agreement with God’s moral and spiritual law, living truly, rightly, justly, and with complete integrity, without evident or secret sin which brings reproach,” says George Wood. That requirement alone makes our qualifying impossible. The truth is that unless we get help, we will never make it to the holy hill. Paul echoes this dilemma in Romans as he tells of the struggle between doing right and failing. Thankfully he offers us the remedy when he says, “Oh, wretched man that I am. Who shall deliver me?” And he answers, “I thank God through Christ Jesus.”
David continues in describing this person who will lodge in the tent of God by saying, “and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman.”
George Wood says, “The two most difficult tasks of the tongue are being truthful and not running down others. Liars and slanderers will not get inside the gate of God’s holy hill. I must not wrong my neighbor by slurring him. Citizens of heaven do not gossip. The law imposes upon me a duty not to injure someone.”
Multiple times the Bible addresses this area of our lives. The Ten Commandments tell us that we are not to “bear false witness against our neighbor.” Jesus told us to “let our yay be yay and our nay be nay.” Paul tells us in Galatians that our sin nature moves us to strife and jealousy which in turn motivate us to assassinate another’s character. And Revelation is clear when it says that liars will not inherit the kingdom of God.
“and nothing that defiles or profanes or is unwashed will ever enter it, nor anyone who practices abominations [detestable, morally repugnant things] and lying, but only those [will be admitted] whose names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
We may gloss it over or relegate gossip to an unimportant category but God calls it a serious matter and Psalm 17 says that those who practice such will not dwell on the holy hill.
Psalm 17 says that we are to be careful about who we hang out with. This is not to suggest we isolate ourselves from sinners but to say that if our best friends are those who are in rebellion against God, they will usually be the influencers. Some will reject this by saying that Jesus sat with and ate with sinners. And I would say that if and when we attained to His level of righteousness and are spiritually strong enough, we can too. Most of us have those things that pull hard to drag us back into the pit of sin and we don’t need a push. David says that we are to avoid “a vile man but honor those who fear the Lord.”
George Wood says, “Who are the vile? Those who cannot be trusted to tell the truth, who run others down, do their neighbor wrong, don’t keep their word, make money illicitly, and whose ends justify their means. I am to keep in balance joining Jesus as a “friend of sinners” without participating in a wrongful lifestyle.”
Psalm 17 says we are to be those who keep our commitments. Unfortunately we live in a world where broken promises have become the accepted norm. In the heat of the moment, we make great promises but when the cost becomes apparent, we seek ways to circumvent those promises.
George Wood says, “I must keep my word even when it hurts. Faithfulness is never tested when all goes well. Rather I am pressed to be unfaithful when I consider my personal happiness over the duty to keep obligations I have made. God will never approve if I forsake duty for personal happiness and satisfaction.”
The final portion of Psalm 17 says that those who will lodge in the tent of God have scruples and integrity in financial matters. We are told that the three things that exert influence on the earth are money, sex, and power. The power of money affects not only the wealthy but also the poor. How often has it broken relationships, divided families and created conflict in the church. Psalm 17 says that we are to never increase our wealth by abusing others nor are we to place them at a disadvantage so we can get what we want. George Wood says, “As a Christian, I am never to cheat others or economically oppress them. In a cutthroat world the Lord calls us to moral goodness.
We might say that Psalm 17 describes the character of those who will inhabit heaven. But these characteristics will also provide personal stability here on earth( he who does these things will never be shaken). Often we wonder why God allows testing in our lives. I’ve concluded that His purpose for such is to eradicate our desire for sinful things and to prepare us for heaven. Unless our character and nature is transformed and our desires and wishes changed to desire the things of God, we would never be able to fully enjoy heaven. It is true that we have no power to bring about these changes but Christ has broken their power and the Holy Spirit has come and all who yield to that work will in the end become qualified for the holy hill.
If, like Paul, you have become weary with what feels like a useless struggle against temptation and while you want to become the person described in Psalm 17 but find yourself coming short, turn your attention to Christ. Ask the One who was tempted in all things without yielding to sin to take up your case. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and begin to produce His fruit so abundantly that it blots out all work of the flesh. Someone said it this way: “What you feed grows, what you starve dies.” Feed your spirit and starve your sin nature and enjoy the change. You’ll be glad you did.
Dr. John Thompson