Marks of Maturity David, by the testimony of the Psalm itself, is the author of Psalm 15. In its lines are contained David‟s heart‟s expressions of what true worship constitutes. After all the apparent rules and regulations given to the Israelites during their journey at Mount Sinai, David in this psalm seems to also have perceived the essence of what God desires and sees of true importance in worship. David writes that those who walk blamelessly, do what is righteous, speak truth from their hearts, have no slander on their tongues, do no wrong to their neighbor, cast no slur on their fellowmen, despise a vile man, honor those who fear the Lord, keep their oaths even when it hurts, lend money without usury, and do not accept a bribe against the innocent are those who are true worshippers of God. One commentary on Psalms explains that “the conditions for entering the Temple and worshiping there are given by the priests…. These conditions are all moral and spiritual, not ritual and ceremonial; they have to do with character and conduct.” (Bratcher and Reyburn 1991, 135) This paper will look at three of the above-mentioned conditions, doing what is righteous, doing no wrong to one‟s neighbor, and keeping an oath even when it hurts. As will be seen, these conditions are truly heart conditions, not mandated behaviors in the child of God. Structure of Psalm 15 It is interesting to note the pairings of positive and negative statements in this psalm. One commentary describes how “three positive conditions are followed by three negative conditions, then two positive followed by two negative – total ten.… This tenfold structure of conditions is analogous to the Decalogue in principle and with respect to the sense of wholeness.” (Craigie 2004, 150) While there is no one-to-one analogy to the Ten Commandments, David seems well aware of the moral conditions in play here that are expressed in the sentiments of the psalm. For


believers interested in becoming more like Christ, it offers up practical tips how this spirit of the Ten Commandments is lived out in day-to-day living. Doing What Is Righteous The Hebrew word ‫ , צֶדֶק‬used in Psalm 15:1 for “right” or “righteous”, is translated in two Hebrew dictionaries as “what is right, just, normal; rightness, justness, of weights and measures” (Brown 2000, 841), and as “upright, justifiable behavior” (Koehler et al. 1999, 1004). Doing what is righteous is described by the Pulpit Commentary as acting “not, of course, in absolute perfection, but with a sincere intention, and so as to have „the answer of a good conscience towards God” (1 Pet. 3:21)‟” (“The Pulpit Commentary: Psalms Vol. I,” 2004, 91). From these descriptions, a couple of conclusions can be drawn. First, the simple reading of the phrase “doing what is right" (or righteous) needs to take into consideration a baseline of morality in a society that allows for a judgment call of what is considered right, just or even normal. In the United States and most western nations, reference is often made to “JudeoChristian standards” (meaning the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, in broad strokes), and they can serve as a valid guideline of right behavior, something that is expressed in the laws of the respective countries as well. Generally speaking, the Ten Commandments can serve as an initial measure of what a society might think of as appropriate, or right, behavior. Just behavior, on the other hand, has to do more with how one person deals with another in situations such as commercial or neighborly dealings. An example here might be how a person deals with a situation where multiple decisions can be made in a particular situation, but a preference is given to that which takes into consideration all aspects and which favors nonpartially in the decision the party or outcome, which aligns with all facts, rather than feelings or biases.


For a believer, doing what is righteous has to be large part of spiritual formation. Recently, a believer shared with the author how before she came to Christ, she would routinely keep extra change given to her or would not go back if the cashier forgot to ring something up under her cart. Now, as she has matured in Christ, this is unthinkable to her. She will return the money or go back to pay for the item missed. Doing what is right also plays a large role in the spiritual formation of a business person who learns to exhibit entirely ethical behavior as a mature believer whereas as a non-believer or even early believer he or she may have found it okay to e.g. pad an expense report. Doing what is right, or righteous, is something that lets a believer speak into the lives of those around him or her who do not know the Lord by being a “living Bible.” Doing No Wrong to One’s Neighbor Doing a neighbor wrong can potentially stretch all the way from those that are physical neighbors to other nations when viewed as a group statement, such as a country‟s leadership‟s behavior towards another country. For the interest of this discussion, the definition is one that applies to someone within the same group. One Bible dictionary offers the explanation of the term neighbor, ַ ‫ ר‬as a “fellow countryman, neighbor, i.e., one who is of the same race, or ‫ֵע‬ ַ social/geographical group…neighbor, i.e., one who lives in close geographical proximity, and by implication the same national group.” (Swanson 1997, 599) ‫ ,רעָה‬typically translated as ָ “wrong”, is explained as “evil, misery, distress, injury” in a Hebrew dictionary (Brown 2000, 841). The As Elwell and Beitzel explain, "within the covenant community, love of neighbor involved certain responsibilities explicitly set forth in the Law. The neighbor was to be treated fairly…and respected…, as were his belongings…. To foster such just and merciful relationships within the covenant community, the neighbor was to be thought of as a 'brother'." (1988, 1539)


For a believer, as part of their spiritual formation, he or she will foster an increased sense of others, and especially other believers, as those belonging to one‟s extended family, as the term „brother‟ would indicate. One commentary writes that the term used here is “a different word from that used at the end of the verse, and implying greater intimacy. There is special wickedness in injuring one with whom we are intimate.” (“The Pulpit Commentary: Psalms Vol. I,” 2004, 91) In other words, hurting another person, to whom believers are to relate as to a “brother”, is deemed a very unacceptable behavior. For situations involving a brother or sister in Christ, this may mean prayer to be able to accept another person for who God made them to be when a disdain is perceived against this person. This also means in practical terms that the “we-they” walls typically raised in any human encounter need to be lowered to allow bringing others into community. This is especially true if a believer hopes to win a non-believer to Christ. Relationships with other believers are important to those of the faith community, but they can never preclude incorporating those into daily lives that are (not yet) a member of the family of God. Keeping an Oath Even When It Hurts This passage in the original text is difficult to understand. As one handbook on the Psalms puts it, “swears to his own hurt implies that the person invokes the supernatural as a witness or sanction for his statements….This line may be rendered 'he swears before God that what he says he will do, and does not change his words‟ or 'he tells God he will do something, and he really does it.‟” (Bratcher and William David Reyburn 1991, 135) While an oath in Old Testament language can mean "a solemn promise, often invoking a divine witness, regarding one‟s future action or behavior" or "a sworn declaration, such as the promise to tell the truth, in a court of law" (Soanes and Stevenson 2004), for the believer, the meaning in today‟s world can be that when he or she has made a promise to another, he or she


needs to keep it, even if it is difficult. An example would be having promised to help someone move on a particular weekend, but being given the opportunity to go to a professional sports event for free instead – and declining that opportunity and helping instead as promised. Ultimately, this can also have other ramifications in the spiritual formation of a believer. Those who have trusted Christ as Savior have, in a sense, sworn an oath of allegiance to God. While here in the West this may not be tested during this writer‟s lifetime, certainly believers in other countries are experiencing a test to the death of their loyalty to this oath when being asked to recant their faith or die, as the recent example of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran showed. It can only be hoped and prayed that believers not accustomed to such severe persecution would prove to be as faithful! CONCLUSION As has been seen by the three examples of doing what is righteous, doing no wrong to one‟s neighbor and keeping an oath even if it hurts are critical elements in the spiritual formation of the believer. A person recently saved will not necessarily immediately express the changes in his or her life, however as a believer matures, showing the traits highlighted here in Psalm 15 are a certain sign of spiritual formation in the believer‟s life. Returning to Bratcher and Reyburn„s words mentioned at the beginning that the conditions described are moral and spiritual and have to do with character and conduct, rather than mandates, the formation of these traits in the life of the believer can serve as a measure of spiritual maturity. The heart of the believer is molded to the desires of his or her Lord and God, making the believer want to express these behaviors in order to glorify God.


REFERENCES Bratcher, Robert G., and William David Reyburn. A Translator's Handbook on the Book of Psalms. Helps for translators. New York: United Bible Societies, 1991. Brown, Francis. Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced brown-driverbriggs hebrew and english lexicon, electronic ed. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000. Craigie, Peter C. Vol. 19. Word biblical commentary, 2nd ed. , Word Biblical Commentary. Nashville, Tenn.: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004. Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1988. Koehler, Ludwig, Walter Baumgartner, M.E.J Richardson, and Johann Jakob Stamm. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Electronic ed. New York: E.J. Brill, 1999. The Pulpit Commentary: Psalms Vol. I. Edited by H. D. M. Spence-Jones. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems,, 2004. The Pulpit Commentary: Psalms Vol. I. Edited by H. D. M. Spence-Jones. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems,, 2004. Soanes, Catherine, and Angus Stevenson. Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 11th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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