Benjamin Franklin once called David's Psalm 15 the "Gentleman's Psalm." To him, it represented the standard of life after which a gentleman should pattern his walk. As fine a description as that may be, David's song goes even deeper than that—it is indeed the "Christian's Psalm." It sets forth not so much the way a person finds the Lord as the way we are to live after the Lord has entered our life. In other words, it doesn't deal with how someone becomes a Christian, but rather how a Christian should maintain a life of integrity. It sets forth many of the moral and ethical characteristics God desires in His children's day-to-day lifestyle, both in public and in private.
It should come as a surprise to no one that ours is a day of weakened integrity. Pause for a moment and call to mind a few of the more prominent examples:
- Military officers stationed at an overseas embassy, given the responsibility to protect confidential documents, traded our secrets for sexual gratification
- Sex scandals in politics have become commonplace, even among those championing "family values"
- The men and women running our largest financial institutions have victimized their customers and even the United States government for their own financial gain
- Even the religious world has not escaped a breakdown in integrity. Sex scandals and the misuse of ministry funds have put a black eye on the face of several televangelists, which cannot help but bruise the testimony of other media ministries even though they may be squeaky clean. When a cloud of suspicion appears over several well-knowns, even the obscure are affected by the shadow
Like many of David's songs, we cannot determine from the lyrics what prompted him to write. Perhaps that's intentional. By leaving out his own personal details, he allows us to write in our own. His words then become our words as we lament the daily grind of weakened integrity.
Aside from David's specific concerns, and ours, there is a broader biblical context that gives the psalm real significance. Let me explain.
The moment a believing sinner gives his heart to Jesus Christ, he is declared to be the recipient of numerous spiritual blessings. These make up our eternal inheritance, which never changes. We become a child of God (John 1:12), adopted into His family forever (Romans 8:14–17), sealed and secure (Ephesians 1:13), delivered from darkness into God's love (Colossians 1:13), a member of a priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), and on and on! These things never change, regardless of our walk. They become our permanent inheritance. In that way, they represent our unchanged eternal position in God's eyes.
But something else is also true: We have temporal fellowship with our Lord. From salvation onward, the child of God has the privilege of living under the control of the Holy Spirit. The flip side of that arrangement introduces a possibility: he may, instead, choose to sin and walk in the energy of his own flesh, and thus break this temporal fellowship that is ours to claim. When he or she does, the individual chooses to reject God's power and blessing, and then moves immediately out of the realm of fellowship into the realm of divine discipline. Let me hasten to add that his tragic loss of temporal fellowship need not be extended. If the believer will confess his sins (1 John 1:9) and begin to walk in dependence upon the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18), temporal fellowship will immediately be restored.
Let me put this another way, just to be clear. If you have trusted in Christ, your eternal destiny is secure, despite your personal failures. However, you can be cut off from the benefits of fellowship in this life. You can excuse yourself from God's banquet table of fellowship and choose to eat the husks of sin. And you will reap the consequences of your choices while in this life: malnourishment, loneliness, sorrow, regrets....
How does all this tie in with Psalm 15? Simply that this divine song has to do with our walking in the realm of temporal fellowship. In fact, it mentions some of the things we should be doing within the framework of that fellowship. It deals with those works of righteousness that are prompted by the Holy Spirit while we are walking in dependence upon our God. When these things begin to fade from our lives, our integrity is inevitably weakened—and ultimately, our testimony is hurt.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.