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
From the lesson, what does “blameless” mean in verse 2?
What is the second couplet, and what kind of parallelism is used?
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.