Psalm 15: The holiness of God in the presence of his people
The opening question of Psalm 15 (“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?”) invites us into a conversation that is both familiar and disorienting at the same time: corporate worship. It’s familiar for North American Christians largely because of the so-called “worship wars”—the ongoing debate about what Sunday morning worship should look like, particularly in terms of music. And yet Psalm 15 disorients us a bit because it’s not interested in the same kinds of questions that generally surround this debate (e.g. style, syncopation, skill).
Instead Psalm 15 begins by highlighting the holiness of God in the presence of his people. That is to say, true worship is God-centered, not man-centered. It is not our right to enter the presence of God, but his gracious invitation. And as our holy God, it his prerogative to define the nature and content of our worship. The rampant consumerism that fuels the worship wars reveals more about the idols of our heart than our devotion to God.
Furthermore God-centered worship not only begins by recognizing God’s holiness, but reflects that holiness in our daily lives. God is far more interested in the condition of our hearts than the strength of our voices or the skill of our hands. The character and integrity of our lives between Sundays reveals the true position of our heart; there is no room for compartmentalization in our faith (i.e. the disconnect between what we sing and say on Sunday and how we live the rest of the week).
And lest we forget the preceding chapter (Psalm 14:2: “there is none who does good, not even one”), God-centered worship depends entirely upon the grace of God in Christ. Apart from the cleansing of our sin through the cross and the new life of the resurrection, we have no business being in God’s presence. Neither should we approach him as though his grace were unnecessary, reducing gathered worship to mere formalism, wherein our words and worship bear no relation to our hearts (cf. Isa. 29:13).
It is the grace of God which enables us to recognize God’s holiness, and which transforms our lives to reflect it, such that our worship may be rightly centered on God when we gather in his presence. Join us Sunday morning, July 10, at Westgate to explore this passage further together.
Related articles: Psalms: A handbook for life in a fallen world
UPDATE: The sermon text from July 10 is now available here: Psalm 15 Westgate 7.10.11