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At the doorpost of Psalm 15, the songwriter asks a couple of questions. These questions deal with how someone might safely dwell in the presence of God. In other words, how may someone have access to God and his covenant blessings?

What follows in the psalm are descriptions or perhaps better, the qualifications of this one who may ascend to this holy hill.

One thing you will notice in this passage is that the various descriptions of the godly one concern matters of the heart. They are not mere external conformity to the law. No, this psalm gets after the reason why someone would do these things.

This reminds me of 1 Samuel 15 where we learn of Samuel’s confrontation with Saul. The Lord is not merely satisfied by our ability to offer the right animals for sacrifice, but rather a heart of love and compassion that delights to do the will of God. Jesus himself reminded the Pharisees of this when he said, “I desire mercy and not a sacrifice, go and learn what this means” (Matt. 9:13).

This combination of a perfect heart (motivation & desire) with perfect actions (obedience) leaves us quite undone. As a matter of fact, you can’t even get out of the first qualification before we stub our toes on the rock of perfection. Listen to the first qualification:

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart (v. 2)

I don’t know about you, but I’m busted right here. I can’t go further. I fell on my face at the base of the hill. Therefore, according to this psalm (and the rest of the Bible), I cannot ascend to the hill of God or approach his tent. In other words, because of my inability to be perfect, in heart and action, I cannot enjoy the blessings of God and his covenant.

This is where Jesus is seen to be so precious, so valuable.

Consider that it was Jesus who not only did everything that was required but also that he did it out of a pure love for God and his law. The writer of Hebrews picks up on this:

Behold I have come to do your will, O God. (Heb. 10:7)

Jesus not only performed what was required, but he also did it out of a heart that delights to do so. He delights in God. This is particularly good news for us who have not done so. Jesus is the sinner’s substitute who obeys perfectly and loves perfectly in our place.

How can you ascend the hill of the Lord? It is because Jesus ascended the hill of Calvary to pay your debt and win your right to enjoy God and his blessings. Isn’t this great news? You and I may indeed dwell in God’s presence and receive the benefits of the covenant because of the obedience of Christ for us! We are accepted by, through, and in the beloved.

But it doesn’t stop there.

God the Holy Spirit continues to work in the lives of all that Christ died for. He continues to apply the powerful benefits of the gospel as he conforms Christ’s people into Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29). These qualifications, which seemed so out of reach before, can actually begin to be seen in the lives of Christians. God works these things in and out of us, for our good and his glory.

Therefore, because of the work of Christ and through the work of the Holy Spirit we might now come into God’s presence. We may dwell on his holy hill because we know the King of the hill. Because of the goodness of God, we may in fact “never be moved” (Psalm 15:5c).

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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