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.

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.

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.

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.

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."