Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
Knock Knock, Who’s There?
The Worshipper’s Approach to God
Dr. Alex Tang
We can enter His sanctuary and worship only because of His Grace and Mercy
Text: Psalms 15
PS 15:1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
PS 15:2 He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
PS 15:3 and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,
PS 15:4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,
PS 15:5 who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.
Two years ago, I was in Bangkok to attend a medical conference. I took the opportunity to visit a Buddhist Temple, Wat Po. Not only does it house a 147 feet long Reclining Buddha, it is also a centre of traditional medicine. To enter the temple, we have to take off our shoes for it is a sacred place. We also visited Ancient Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam (Thailand). In the 17th century, it is one of the largest trading cities in the world with a population of more than one million. This means it is greater than London at that time. One wonders why we were not taught that in history. It was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.
It is mostly ruins but there is a rebuilt Buddhist temple, Wat Phanan Choeng. It houses a rebuilt sitting Buddha which is regarded as one of the largest in the world. To enter the temple, we have to take off our shoes. A few months ago, we visited Osaka, Japan. We visited Shitenno-Ji Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. It is am impressive 5 storey wooden pagoda built without nails. To enter, we have to take off our shoes.
Two years ago, we visit St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It is the largest church in the world. We did not have to take off our shoes but walk just in. Have we Christian lost our sense of relevance? Our sense of respect for sacred places? When Moses met God in the burning bush, he was told to take off his shoes because the ground he was standing on was sacred ground. I wonder whether we walk into this church service with a sense of walking into a sacred area. Or are we walking into this hall as we are walking into a shopping centre, a cinema or Giant (a mega-market)?
Knock, knock: Who can enter?
v.1.LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?
In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and later the Temple of Solomon is the sacred place of worship. It is a sacred place because God is present there physically. They have seen the glory of God settled into the tabernacle and later the Temple. This Psalm, alleged written by David gave an impression of a priest standing at the entrance of the sanctuary, asking all those who want to enter to worship. "Are you worthy to enter to worship".
It is closely linked with Psalm 26 in which a worshipper answered the question "How is your soul?" and was able to stand on 'level ground in the great assembly'.
Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.
Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;
for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.
I do not sit with deceitful men, nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence, and go about your altar, O LORD,
proclaiming aloud your praise and telling of all your wonderful deeds.
I love the house where you live, O LORD, the place where your glory dwells.
Do not take away my soul along with sinners, my life with bloodthirsty men,
in whose hands are wicked schemes, whose right hands are full of bribes.
But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me.
My feet stand on level ground; in the great assembly I will praise the LORD.
1. Living with our soul
v. 2a. He whose walk is blameless
v. 2b. and who does what is righteous,
v. 2c. who speaks the truth from his heart
The metaphor of the “walk” is used throughout the Bible for one’s pattern of life and conduct. “Blameless” means complete, sincere, or perfect. A blameless person lives in obedience to God and maintains a life of integrity. His activities are in harmony with God’s standards, that is, they are righteous. We cannot fool God. God sees us as we really are. We can fool people but we cannot fool God. We can even fool ourselves but we cannot fool God. God seeks worshippers with personal integrity. A person who does the right thing speaks the right thing and is the right thing. A person who practices what he or she preaches.
Michael Card, a Christian singer told about his relationship with Professor Lane in his book, The Walk. Card met Lane at Western Kentucky University when Card was a student and Lane a professor. Card felt compelled to ask Lane to spend time with him, not knowing that Lane had been praying for a young man to befriend and disciple. Thus began a deep friendship that lasted 20 years, ending when Lane died of cancer. Card not only discusses the legacy and gifts Lane gave him as a friend, but he also explores the rare relationship they enjoyed as disciple and teacher. Card feels strongly that spending time under Lane's tutelage equipped him to go out as Christ's representative, just as Jesus equipped his disciples to venture into the world as apostles. Lane taught Card to "let the excellence of [his] work be [his] protest" when the young songwriter complained bitterly about the lack of integrity in the Christian music business. He showed Card how to have a listening heart toward God and others, and taught him that every activity should start and end with prayer. Michael said he learnt more from the way Professor Lane lived than from what he taught. Then Michael moved away from that town and they lost contact. One day he received a call from Professor Lane. Lane said he is dying from cancer and wants to move to where Michael Card is living to 'show him how a Christian man dies'. They moved to be Michael's neighbor until Professor Lane died. I wonder how many of us can live the Christian life as we understand it to be? That our walk is blameless does what is righteous and speaks the truth from our heart. How many of us dare to hold our life up to the light and say, "look, this is how a Christian lives".
2. Living with our neighbors
v. 3. and has no slander on his tongue, which does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
Another thing the Lord looks for in people worthy to be his worshippers is how we live with our neighbors. With our families, one another in the church, our friends and relatives. These are our neighbors. One of our greatest problems is that we tend to judge one another. We judge each other and passed judgments. Then we talk about it. We gossips. We spread what we think to others. We also think our judgment is sound. We often forget that false judgment can lead to harm to our neighbors and slur to our fellowman or woman.
I have a confession to make. This is not easy. Some years ago…some years ago…I spent the happiest hours of my life…in the arms of another man's wife…..we hugged, we caressed, we kissed…another man's wife…….that woman is my mother, when I was a baby! How many have been thinking of me committing adultery when I said that. Even thought you have heard the words clearly and the meaning seem so clear, many of you jumped to the wrong conclusion. How many times have we jumped to conclusions, on evidence that seem so clear, only to be wrong, so disastrously wrong. And what will it do to me and Agnes, if you should spread this wrong conclusion around.
3. Living in the religious community
v.4a. who despises a vile man
v. 4b. but honors those who fear the LORD,
In Hebrew thinking, you are either right with the Lord or not. There is no middle path. Being right with God brings you shalom. In true worship, you are only to worship with people that fear the Lord.
4. Living in society
v. 4c. who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
v. 5a. who lends his money without usury
v. 5b. and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Worship does not limit itself to the four walls of this sanctuary but also to the society in which we live in. A true worshipper keeps his or her word. As Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, let your yes be yes and your no be no. A man or woman of God is a person who keeps their promises, even when it hurts.
He does not lend his money for usury or interest (lit., “he does not put the bite on them”). He does not take advantage of one who must borrow. Taking interest from fellow Israelites was forbidden as unbrotherly (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:36). When a Jew lends money to a fellow Jews, they are not to charge interest on the loan. The principle is that the rich is to help the poor. Taking an interest is like increasing the burden on those who is already burdened. However, they are allowed to charge interest to foreigners.
A righteous person does not take bribes against the innocent. The Law of course forbade this (Deut. 27:25). Instead a righteous person champions the cause of the innocent and the needy.
The American president I respect most is Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. He is the man who singed the Bill of Emancipation setting the slaves free and he is the man who held the nation together during the civil war. Abraham Lincoln is a man of his times with a powerful grasp of philosophy, religion and the economic realities. Even though his Christian views are not too orthodox, I believe that he believed sincerely in Christianity and he did what he had to do as a Christian.
All is can be summed up as the Golden Rule of Jesus teaching in Matthew 7: 12.
'So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for these sums up the Law and the Prophets.' It is about relationship in society.
Knock, Knock: Please Enter
v. 5c. He who does these things will never be shaken.
I cannot help but notice the similarity with Acts 1:8 which Jesus taught about us being witnesses.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
As we seriously examine our lives, how many of us can honestly say we can fulfill all the criteria listed in Psalm 15.
· whose walk is blameless
· who does what is righteous,
· who speaks the truth from his heart
· has no slander on his tongue
· who does his neighbor no wrong
· casts no slur on his fellowman,
· who despises a vile man
· honors those who fear the LORD,
· who keeps his oath even when it hurts
· who lends his money without usury
· does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
If we are really, brutally honest with ourselves, we must answer no. No, we cannot fulfill all these criteria to enter into the sanctuary of the Most High God. So we turn away sadly from the door.
Once I was invited to a really high class function. So I spruced myself up, cut my hair and wear a suit. But in my excitement in attending the function, I forgot to bring my invitation card so the guard at the door refuses to allow me in. But the host saw me and says, "It's okay to let him in because I know him and he is my friend". So I went in even though I did not have an invitation card.
God, in his mercy and grace, knows that we do not fulfill the criteria listed in Psalm 15. But he said, "Let them in, anyway. Because I know them and they are my friend". So how do we enter his sanctuary? Not by being good enough because we will never be good enough. We enter the sanctuary because we are invited in by the host of hosts. It is by his grace and his mercy that we may 'dwell in his sanctuary, live on his holy hill'. For us to worship God is only by his grace and mercy.
Psalm 15 gives us a glimpse on what God expects in his worshippers.
Soli Deo Gloria
"treat, heal, and comfort always"
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