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Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

Knock, Knock, Who’s There?
23rd August 2015

Knock, Knock, Who’s There?

Speaker:
Passage: Psalm 15:1 - 5

Psalm 15
Knock, Knock, Who's There?

Knock, Knock,

I’ve got some jokes for us to start with. I hope you like knock knock jokes.

You need to join in OK? This isn’t rhetorical!

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?
Orange.
Orange who?
Orange you going to let me in?

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Avenue.

Avenue who?

Avenue knocked on this door before?

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Wooden shoe.
Wooden shoe who?
Wooden shoe like to hear another joke?

OK! As fun as that is for me, I’m not going to torture you any longer!
And the point of that is not just to fill in time or anything, but in fact to make us think about the issue raised in this Psalm.
Because a knock knock joke, is really a simple question of access isn’t it?

There’s someone on the outside,
They want access, they want to come in, and so they’re , presenting their credentials, if you like, requesting access.
Psalm 15, is a song written by David, the king of the ancient people of Israel, about a thousand years before Jesus, and it’s a song about , access.
Ask the question
The question is raised in verse 1;, Who can come into God’s presence?

And then almost the entire rest of the Psalm is spent answering the question, exactly who does have access to God,
Who can come into his presence?
See the question there,
LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
It’s the same question of access framed in 2 different ways, which is typical of this kind of Hebrew poetry.
And it’s pretty clear, isn’t it, that it’s a question about access to God?
David is addressing the LORD, all in capital letters there which means that the word in the original language is Yahweh, God’s personal name, the name by which he revealed himself to the people of Israel,
LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
You might know that God had instructed Moses to make a tent, called a tabernacle, and that place was the focus of God’s presence among his people.
Later on, King David himself, pitched a tent in the city of Jerusalem, on mount Zion, and that became the place for God’s presence to dwell among his people.
So to go up to God’s holy mountain, or to enter into God’s sacred tent, means to come into the presence of God,
And Psalm 15 might well have been a song that God’s people sang, as they came to gather at God’s tent, and then it was incorporated into the collection of Psalms, the hymn book and prayer book for the nation.
Why does the question have to be asked?
But the question of access is a good one for us to ask today also, even though we don’t worry about approaching a particular patch of real estate, but because that particular patch of real estate was the embodiment if you like, of God’s presence among his people, who goes there, is a question of who can enjoy God’s presence?
To ask the geography question, who’s allowed in this bit of land here, exposes a much greater question, who is able to come into God’s presence?

Who can enjoy the benefits and blessings of being in relationship with God?
And the fact that the question is even asked in the first place, implies, doesn’t it, that the answer is not, “everyone.”

Every, Tom, Dick and Harry, were not free to march up Mount Zion, and simply stroll into the tent where God’s presence dwelt.
See, David knows, what the Bible teaches us about God.

That God is holy,
That God perfect,
And that God is, by necessity, separate from us, because we are not holy,
We are not perfect,
We don’t honour God as we ought,
Actually, we rebel against God, we don’t put him first in every decision, and every thought.

And that’s what the Bible calls sin.

A sinful human being, who’s spent his or her life putting themselves first rather than God, can’t simply stroll into God’s presence.

We would be , , utterly consumed.
For God’s presence to dwell in a tent in the city of Jerusalem, right among his people, created a challenge, because God’s presence can’t be entered into lightly.

If God is perfect and holy, and we are far from that,
Then who can enjoy the benefits and blessings of being in relationship with God?
Who has access?

Who can come in?
Knock, Knock, who’s there? It’s an essential question to ask.
Hear the answer
But fortunately, David doesn’t just ask the question, and leave it to us to try and figure out, he also gives us the answer.

And the answer comes in a series of parallel phrases, which take up nearly the rest of the Psalm.
Some writers see 10 pairs of phrases in the Psalm, and they draw parallels between that and the 10 Commandments that God gave to Israel, saying this is kind of a development on the 10 commandments.
The number actually depends on how you break down each phrase.
But if there are 10, it’s probably not so much supposed to be a direct step on from the 10 Commandments, as much as a nice round number that symbolises a complete approach.
An Israelite, even an Israelite child, could count off the 10 instructions on their fingers, and have some sense of what it takes to be able to enter God’s presence.
The point is, I don’t think we’re supposed to think of this list as being exhaustive, as much as giving us the broad brush strokes of who can come before God.
See there in verse 5, the person who does not accept a bribe against the innocent, but if you accept a bribe against someone who you know is guilty, that’s OK?

No, I don’t think so!

Not exhaustive!

Big picture.
What does David tell us about who has access to God?
Well verse 2 gives us a pretty good start, but also raises a whole other issue.
See there, who may dwell in your sacred tent?

The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
The problem is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Even that first line, the one whose walk is blameless, well, it wipes us all out, doesn’t it?

Instantly we’re all excluded!

The very first line of the answer to the question, who can have access to God, who can have relationship with God, neither you nor I measure up.
I’m sure that most of us, don’t think we’re bad people, we tend to think of ourselves as pretty good,
We’re not as bad as some,
We try hard,
But even with all that,
We know we’re not blameless
Or look at the next line, verse 3, whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,

It would be nicer if David described someone who, tries hard to speak the truth most of the time,
Someone who often does what is right,
Who only treats their neighbour badly, when they deserve it.
But there’s no wiggle room here, is there?

There are no points awarded for effort.

David’s words are absolutely unequivocal.

Blameless,
No slander,
No wrong to a neighbour
.
You and I, friends, and everyone we know, we are all excluded.
There is only one person, ever to have fulfilled the standard of Psalm 15,
Only one person, who could point to their character and their conduct and say to God, “I have the right to come into your presence.”
It is Jesus Christ alone, who can be described in these terms.

And the New Testament teaches us, that after his earthly life, a life lived without sin,
After his death, undeserved, Jesus ascended to heaven, and entered into the presence of his father.
We see it promised in places like Daniel chapter 7,
We see it from another perspective in the book of Revelation;,
Jesus Christ, ushered into the presence of his Father, being granted the very access, that David knows, is only available to one who is blameless and righteous in everything he does.
David’s original audience looked forward to a time, when God himself would enable people to live like this,
When God himself would pay the penalty for their failure to live like this.
The Psalm wasn’t meaningless to them simply because they didn’t know about Jesus yet.

They knew that one day God would enable his people to live like this,
God wanted them to cast their minds forward to that time, when he would make each and every one of his people like this.
But in the meantime, this Psalm reminded them not only of God’s standard, but also of their own failings,
It reminded them of their need for God himself to make a way, if they were ever going to have a real relationship with God.
How could a sinful human being, come into the tent in Jerusalem where a holy God’s presence dwelt?
Only through Jesus.
Only because sin would one day be dealt with permanently.
Sure, they didn’t know the detail,
They didn’t know it was Jesus,
But they knew that they had to depend on God’s own provision, for sin to be taken away, and to no longer be a barrier between people and God.
We, though, stand at a different point in what we call salvation history. We look back to the life and ministry of Jesus, and we see that because of his perfect life,
Because of his undeserved death, the death we actually did deserve, for rejecting God, because of that, we have been, ushered into God’s presence.
And if you were with us near the beginning of our Ephesians teaching series, we saw that those who trust in Jesus for forgiveness and reconciliation with God, have already been given , this access.
No need to knock, knock, we’re already there!
You might remember that expression that the Apostle Paul used, deliberately showing the fulfilment of this kind of Old Testament expectation. We are he said, seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.
David asks the question of who can come into a tent, raising the much more significant question of who is able to come into God’s presence, and we find out that we’re already there!
Not through any effort of our own,
Not because we can tick these boxes,
But only through the work of Christ.
Friends, the access, the blessings of being in the presence of God are already yours, if you are trusting in Jesus for forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
What was David’s question? LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
Me!
You! If you’re trusting in Jesus.
But that great assurance, doesn’t mean though that the Psalm has nothing to say to us.

Quite the contrary.
See the character and actions of God’s person today
Having been brought near in Christ Jesus,
Having already been given the access and relationship that David wonders about, we see in this Psalm, the character and action that God longs to find in us.
These 4 verses aren’t the way into God’s presence, but having been brought in, here’s a picture of a life of fellowship with God.

And the focus here is almost exclusively about how God’s person lives in relationship with other people. It all flows out of our relationship with God, but it’s directed at others.
John Stott, the British pastor, called this kind of thing “social holiness.” Which is not a bad description!
When a pilgrim arrived at an ancient pagan temple, there’d be a question and answer, a bit like this. They’d ask to be allowed in, and the priest would reply with a list of conditions for access;

Wash your clothes,
Clean your hands,
Don’t touch an animal,
Perform this, or that religious task.
The Bible’s picture is different,
Relationship with God isn’t lived out through religious tasks, but through character and conduct,

Their character
See, verse 2 again, it’s character that’s on display
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
Notice both the positive and the negative,
What you can see in the life of God’s man or woman, and what is absent.
It’s like David has tossed a coin in the air, and we can see both sides of it as it spins;,
On one side, blameless-ness,
On the other side, righteous-ness.

And the two sides are almost indiscernible as it spins. What we see, is the combination of both, in the life of God’s person.
Here is a picture of a life of the utmost integrity.

Here is someone who chooses to do what is right, even when it hurts, and a specific example of that is given down in verse 4.

This is someone who will do what is right even when it costs.
And so I wonder for us, as God’s people, what cost are we willing to incur, to do what is right?

How far will we go out of our way, to do what we know to be right?

What price are we willing to pay, to avoid what we know to be wrong?
There was some research years ago where rubber reptiles were placed on the road, to study how far drivers would swerve out of their way to avoid them.
The researchers figured people would go a little bit out of their way to avoid killing something, but if people had to incur a cost, would they do it?
What’s the limit?

What personal cost, change of behaviour, would people be willing to put up with?
What they discovered, was not so much that people would go a little bit, or even a long way out of their way, slowing down, or stopping, to avoid them,
But a sizeable proportion of the driving population, would go a great distance out of their way in order to deliberately drive over the reptile.
People would swerve across the road,
Cross the median strip,
Stop,
Reverse,
Line it up again,
Get out of their car to check,
The researchers were very surprised at the lengths people would go to, to pursue the wrong course of action. My question, is the opposite, what lengths will we go to, to pursue what we know to be right?

What will we give up?

What price are we willing to pay?
In order to, speak the truth, for example.
Like we talked about a few weeks ago, this isn’t just about saying true facts, “Today is Sunday”, truth in the Psalms is more about what’s trustworthy, and sure, and reliable.
So speaking the truth, doing what is righteous, can come at a cost.

It’s by no means the only issue, but the issue of same sex marriage is a big one at the moment, with Warren Entch’s private member’s bill introduced to Parliament on Monday.
Almost guaranteed, if you speak the truth, what we know from God’s Word to be sure and certain and trustworthy,
If you do what is right,
If you urge people not to bless what God calls sin, you will incur a cost.
But of course God’s person doesn’t just do what is righteous, some of the time, when it’s easy, when there’s no cost.

To do what is righteous, to be blameless, is the mark of their character.
I wonder how far we are willing to go, to ensure that we do what is righteous, and blameless.

When it’s convenient?

When it fits with what I wanted to do anyway?

When people will think well of us, if we do it?
Or also,
When it hurts?

When there’s a cost?

Are we those who will cross the median strip,
Stop,
Reverse,
Line it up again,
Get out of their car to check,
And make the effort, to be blameless and righteous.
Their speech
It’s not just doing what’s right, or not doing what’s displeasing to God, where the life of God’s person is on display
Observe the speech, of God’s person, who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
We talked about truth already.
Here we see that God’s person speaks the truth, from their heart;
Literally this reads, speaks the truth in their heart. The inmost thoughts and reflections of God’s person are true, and trustworthy, and reliable.
Maybe you know, that when someone treats you really badly, you can convince yourself of something about that person?

“They’re treating me like that because they want my job”,
“They’re just jealous”,
Whatever it might be, God’s person will not impute motive to someone else,
God’s person will not imagine something to be true of someone else.
God’s person speaks the truth in their heart.

And so it’s also true, that they will speak the truth, from their heart;
What’s in their heart will come out.

God’s person will speak the truth.

Again, not just when it’s convenient,
Not just when everyone else happens to agree with the truth
This truthfulness in and from the heart, is such a mark of a sincere believer, that no matter what the cost,
No matter what the opposition, they speak the truth;, what is sure and trustworthy.
This means not joining in with the office gossip, or the classroom gossip.
It means always being true to your word.
This week I was in 2 of our local schools, talking to kids about Deuteronomy 7 verse 9, which says God is the trustworthy God who keeps his promise
Well, God’s man or God’s woman, is to echo that characteristic of God himself.
And I’m sure you will have noticed that parallelism again, the 2 sides of the coin;, speak the truth, don’t speak slander.

God’s person will not tear others down by their words.
There was an English preacher in the 1600s named Matthew Poole. Have a listen to what he said about Christian people gossiping and slandering each other: Pity your brethren:, he says, 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
God’s man or woman will always speak the truth, and will never stir up trouble for others.
Their behaviour
The next part of the description sounds very similar, doesn’t it?
God’s person will do no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others
It sounds like what we just heard to do with speech, but there is a bit of a development, because now we move from words to behaviour.
When David says God’s person casts no slur on others, he’s not simply repeating what he’s already said about slander.

The language has the sense of raking up things unnecessarily.
And God’s person will have none of that.
The way we treat people, matters to God.

And I wonder, if we were to think back on our interactions with others over this past week, whether we could say this is true of us?

Could I say, Clayton does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
Could we say it about you?

And of course, in New Testament, the expectation is even more clearly stated,
The example of Christ that we’re called upon to follow, is not just to do no wrong to a neighbour, but to put the needs and preferences of our neighbour, of any person, before our own!
And that is hard.

Maybe you’ve wondered if you’re the only Christian person ever to find this hard, to always put the needs, the good of others before your own needs, your own benefit.

You are not.
To always to right to others,
To seek their good, even when it costs you , significantly,
That can be hard,
That can be agony.

It can take every fibre of your being, surrendered to the work of the Spirit of God, to enable you to do this.
But, God, by his spirit, enables his person, to live like this.
Even when it costs.
Their discernment
Notice then, the spiritual discernment, of the man or woman of God.

who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the LORD;
Don’t think that the language of despising means we have to treat people badly.
David’s just told us that God’s person behaves well towards others. He’s not going to contradict himself in the space of 2 lines.
But God’s person will be discerning in the way they assess other people.
Everyone will be treated justly, The rest of the Psalm and the rest of the Scriptures will still shape the way we treat people,
But we won’t honour a vile person, regardless of how much influence they have, or how much acclaim they get.
And if we want to know, who might this description of a vile person apply to?, probably all we need to do is look at the negative side of the coin in each of these parallels.

Someone who chooses to do what is wrong,
Someone who slanders,
Who wrongs their neighbour,
Who stirs up trouble for others, etc etc,
And often, and I’m sure you’ve seen this, it’s that person, who people will fall over, and fawn over, seeking some influence,
Hoping to be included, in the inner circle
But God’s man or God’s woman, is discerning when it comes to people.
The person who’s been brought near to God isn’t fooled outward appearances Our discernment is to be a spiritual discernment.

those who fear the Lord quite likely are not going to look impressive.

They’re unlikely to have great crowds flocking to them,
Or to exert significant influence.
And yet, God tells us here, those are the people we should honour.

Are you trying to think, “What should your life look like?”

What shape your life should take?

How do you relate to your spouse?

How do you relate to your kids?

Conduct yourself in your workplace,
Or in the classroom,
Or in your family?
Our world is filled with the example of, we don’t like the language, but, vile people, people who live out the wrong side of all these comparisons in Psalm 15.

Their example is everywhere around us, promoted in every form of media, and paraded before us everywhere we turn.
If you’re God’s person, if you’re one who’s been brought near in Christ Jesus, your pattern for life,
The example you follow, is to be someone who fears the Lord,
Someone who lives according to God’s priorities,
Someone who, in the strength of God’s Holy Spirit, works hard to live out the rest of this Psalm.

Their costly integrity
David’s list continues, God’s person keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
If we speak,
If we make a promise,
If we say we’ll do something, then as someone who has been brought near to God in Christ Jesus, we’ll do it, even if that means incurring a cost.
A few people were talking last Sunday, about the tendency among lots of people today, to not RSVP to events, until the very last minute, in case something better comes along, a more exciting event that we could go to instead.
But now there’s a trend, to say I’ll be at something, your wedding, your house for dinner, whatever, but actually if that more exciting invitation comes along after I’ve already said I’ll be there, I’ll just not turn up to your thing, so I can go to this other thing that tickles my fancy more.
Now that’s a fairly small kind of example, but if that’s what we can be like when there’s really not much cost to keeping my word, what are we like, when integrity means incurring a real cost.
It’s actually pretty easy to keep my word when I don’t feel the cost,
But God’s person will keep their word, even when it doesn’t suit,
Even when it’s inconvenient.

Even when it hurts.
Will you keep your word, even when it means rearranging your diary?

Will you keep your word, even when it means going out of your way?

Will you keep your word, even when you misread or misunderstood a situation or a request, and now to maintain your integrity means incurring a cost?

Will you, man or woman of God, keep your word even if it costs you financially?

If it means going without something that you’d really like?
If you’ve said you’ll do something, for someone,
If you’ve made a commitment, to God even,
When the situation changes, or when the full picture emerges, do you keep your word, and feel the pain, or do you try and wriggle out from under the obligation of your word?
When I was a kid, if I wanted to be very sure that my sister would do something that she said she would, I’d say ask, “Tell me you promise”

And my mother would say, “There’s no need say ‘I promise’, If she says she will do it, that is enough.”

My mother obviously understood Psalm 15.
I don’t know about you, but the further I go into this Psalm, the more and more I feel my conscience being pricked!
But we’re nearly there, so let’s look at the last comparison.
Their use of money
God’s person has a right approach to money, he or she lends money to the poor without interest;
, and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
The law that God gave his people in the Old Testament prohibited charging interest on loans to fellow Israelites. They could charge interest to merchants and others from the nations around them, but part of the reason that God gives for not charging interest to a fellow Israelite, Leviticus 25, if you want to look it up later, was that if one of your country-men needed a loan, it’s probably because they’ve fallen on some misfortune.
And if you, an Israelite, could provide some relief from their distress by loaning them money, great, excellent, do it. But charging interest would only contribute to their misfortune, and increase the burden they’re carrying, so that was was forbidden.
David says, God’s person will use money well.

God’s person will use money according to God’s priorities.
And they definitely won’t use their money corruptly, to gain influence and advantage over others.
God’s person uses money well, Exactly according to the way God would have us use it.

They have mastered their money, it hasn’t mastered them.

And we heard plenty from Jesus in his parables, about how we ought to use money well.

But notice here, a thousand years before Jesus, the same teaching;

God’s priorities, for money.
,
Take hold of the promise
And so David concludes this song about access and relationship with God, with a promise, Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
Which is good news, isn’t it?

There’s an assurance,
There’s a sense of permanence,
And so David moves from just thinking about gaining access to God, to maintaining relationship with God.

Whatever life throws up, God’s person will never be shaken!
,
But maybe you read through the Psalm, and think, “That’s great! I love this promise, I’d love to take hold of it, but, Whoever does these things,
, That’s not really me!

I’m not really like this!”

Maybe you read the Psalm, and if you honestly look at your life, . You think “I look like the wrong side of each of these coins,
Not all the time,
But all too much of the time.”
And what I absolutely don’t want to do, is put another brick in your backpack.

You know, you feel loaded up already, and what you really don’t need is more weight to carry around.
You might feel “I’m not like this.”

Ah, but to God, you are!

If you trust in Jesus, that he lived the life you couldn’t live, and died the death you should have died, then when God looks at you, this is exactly what he sees. Psalm 15! God’s person.

Because when God looks at you, he sees his perfect Son, the one person who lived this exactly.
When God looks at you, he sees this character, not that you have achieved, but which he is creating in you.
,
Knock knock
Who’s there,
God’s person,
God’s person who,
God’s person, who will never be shaken.
It’s not funny, I realise that!

But it’s very very true!