When we as confessing believers in Christ talk about commitment, what do we mean? Do we approach this act from the view of the world or from the view of a holy God? Psalm 15 provides deep insight into the way of commitment. This article focuses on the opening statement:
“O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” (15:1-3)
These two rhetorical questions guide the reader to a series of answers. The questions intend to direct attention to genuine commitment to God and people. Two words key the reader into the meaning of genuine commitment: “sojourn” (יָג֣וּר) and “dwell” (יִ֝שְׁכֹּ֗ן). The first word means to remain, inhabit, abide, or continue. The second word translated “dwell,” takes on constancy, perpetuation, or permanent residency. The two words express different status and timing. Charles John Ellicott (1819-1905) suggests sojourning signifies a guest status (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, Psalm 15, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/psalms/15.htm). A little context from Genesis places a guest status in an honorary light as though they belonged there. Abraham welcomed his guests of angels with very high regard (Genesis 18:1-8). They were, because they came to Abraham as faithful messengers of God, and one was God!
However, when joined with “dwell,” in addressing the same person, this sojourning regards these guests as more than temporary. They came as guest but staid as permanent residents. They made commitment to YAHWEH, the God of all creation and the personal God who welcomes the faithful. They committed to the God of their eternal home yet to be realized. They not only sojourned but continued faithfully with their God. Commitment to such people raises faithfulness to the highest priority.
They walk, speak, and do according to their dwelling faithfulness (15:2). Nothing deters them from their walking, speaking, and doing God’s will. With these three acts, they have four people in mind: the neighbor, a friend, a vile person, and those who fear the LORD (15:3-4). To the first two, the person who commits to God’s wills in walking, speaking, and doing also commits wholeheartedly to one’s neighbor and friend. One who fears the LORD receives honor beyond a neighbor and friend. Walking close, speaking well, and doing good show this exemplary honor toward those who fear the LORD. There is a sense of faithfulness in doing these. That is, a person who sojourns and dwells with God never breaks commitment to neighbor, friend, and especially to those who fear the LORD.
We will explore neighbors, friends, and those who fear the LORD in more depth in subsequent articles. We will also examine walking, speaking, and doing in more detail. These acts towards these groups of people lead to a subsequent crescendo in 15:4, which brings commitment to that which aligns with commitment to God. Where is your commitment to both God, neighbor, friend, and those who fear the LORD? Does it last or is it like chaff that blows away when the winds become inconvenient?
“In the Bible, spirituality and ethics go hand in hand; piety and conduct cannot be divorced. There are consequences to our beliefs and spiritual commitments, and these pertain not only to this life but also to the life to come” (Carson, D. A. The Cross and Christian Ministry (p. 81). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.).