John 15 has been one of my favorite chapters for years! I enjoy reading the analogy of the grapevine – comparing our relationship to Yeshua, with that of the branches to the vine. I believe that spending time in His presence, is the secret to a victorious and productive lifestyle. There are a number of ways that we can “abide in Him”, but for right now I want to focus on some outward characteristics that are displayed in the lives of those that abide in Him, based on Psalm 15.
It was somewhat recently that I was reading the fifteenth chapter of Psalms, and was struck by the way that it corresponded to the fifteenth chapter of John! Let’s take a look …
“YHWH, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear YHWH. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.”
The question is asked; “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?” and not; “Who shall abide in You?” However, considering that the tabernacle was known as the dwelling place of YHWH, I think it is safe to assume that the answer to the question; “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?” is the same as the answer for the question; “Who shall abide in You?” So, let’s “unpackage” this Scripture by exploring the list of characteristics describing those who can abide in His presence.
• Those who walk uprightly.
• Those who work righteousness.
• Those who speak truth in their heart.
• Those who do not backbite.
• Those who do not do evil to their neighbor.
• Those who do not take up a reproach against their neighbor.
• Those who contemn a vile person.
• Those who honor them that fear YHWH.
• Those that swear to their own hurt and change not.
• Those who do not practice usury.
• Those who do not take a reward against the innocent.
? Those who walk uprightly: The word uprightly comes from the Hebrew word tameem (Strongs# 8549). The definition includes; without blemish, complete, full, perfect, sincerely (sincerity), sound, without spot, undefiled, upright (uprightly), whole.
The same word is used to describe Noah in Genesis 6:9; “These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect (tameem) in his generations, and Noah walked with God.”
It is used in Genesis 17:1, when YHWH told Abram; “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect (tameem).” Also in Deuteronomy 18:13; “Thou shalt be perfect (tameem) with YHWH thy God.”
Did you know that we are commanded to be perfect?
That has intrigued me, because none of us are perfect. Even Noah, who was described as perfect, was discovered in a drunken stupor. We tend to think of “perfect”, as being “without sin”, but everyone has sinned. Through a quick study on the way that the word “perfect” is used in the Scriptures, I believe that we may have a false impression of it. I personally think that when we are commanded to “be perfect”, it does not necessarily mean “without sin”, but may mean “upright”, “sincere”, or one of the other definitions of the word. However, that is not an excuse to sin! We should strive to be conformed into His image so that we can be perfect – without sin.
? Those who work righteousness: The word righteousness comes from the Hebrew word tzedek (Strongs# 6664). It also means justice. In fact, it is sometimes translated as just, or justice. Psalms 89:14 says; “Justice (tzedek) and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.”
We serve a just God, and He desires for us to be just. In fact, He doesn’t just desire it; he commands it in a number of Scriptures!
? Those who speak truth in their hearts: The word truth comes from the Hebrew word emet (Strongs# 571), and also means; assured (assuredly), establishment, faithful, right, sure, true (truly, truth), verity.
In studying the Scriptures, we learn of the importance of truth, and how many times it is mentioned. Proverbs 12:19 says; “The lip of truth (emet) shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
As important as it is for us to speak the truth, I think it is interesting that this Scripture specifies “those that speak the truth in their hearts”. In Matthew 12:34b, Yeshua said; “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Another version reads; “For it is from the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.” If we are speaking the truth in our heart, we will not have to worry about whether truth comes out of our mouth!
? Those who do not backbite: The word backbite comes from the Hebrew word ragal (Strongs# 7270). This word is used 24 times in the Scriptures. Twice, it is used as “slander” or “backbite”, but every other time it is used in the context of being a spy. One of the definitions is; talebearer. How many times have our parents told us not to tattle-tale?! How many times have we told the same thing to our younger siblings, or (for those who are married) children?! If we make it our occupation to tell tales on other people, whether it be our siblings, or acquaintances; we will not be able to abide in His presence.
? Those who do not do evil to their neighbor: The word evil comes from the Hebrew word ra (Strongs #7451). The definitions are numerous, including; misery, trouble, wickedness, bad, etc. The word neighbor (raya – Strongs# 7453), means; brother, companion, fellow, friend, husband, lover, neighbor, other. In other words, do not be unkind to those who you come in contact with.
? Those who do not take a reproach against their neighbor:
At first glance, this characteristic sounds much like the one before it. However, the word that is used for neighbor, is a different word than before. The definition for this neighbor (karob – Strongs# 7138), includes the word kinfolk. The implication is “those close to you.” The word for reproach (kherpa – Strongs# 2781) also means; rebuke, and shame.
From past experience, I’ve found (unfortunately) that I will offer a sharp rebuke to one of my family, but wouldn’t dream of speaking to someone else that way. We need to be careful that we treat our family members like the special people that they are. Granted, the closeness of a family relationship allows its members to handle and discuss issues in ways that could be inappropriate outside of that relationship. However, we must keep in mind that YHWH hates respect of persons, and it is wrong to treat our family members in an unkind way that we would not treat others.
? Those who contemn a vile person: Other versions say “in whose eyes a reprobate (or detestable person) is despised”. If we fear YHWH and walk in His presence, we will not have fellowship with those who walk in darkness. We are to be a light in the darkness, but we should not support others in their sin. Sin should be confronted and those who are practicing it should be held accountable.
? Those who honor them that fear YHWH: In contrast to the above characteristic, we are to honor those that fear YHWH and serve Him. There are a variety of different ways we can honor others. We can show hospitality, we can encourage, we can support, we can bless … the list could go on and on. As brothers and sisters in the body of Messiah, it is our duty to honor, bless, and encourage others.
? Those that swear to their own hurt and change not: Five years ago, my family and I were visiting some friends in another state. Those friends took us to meet a friend of theirs who had a sheep farm. This man had a dog that could run fast! The dog ran in circles, and ran out of circles, and ran everywhere! My brother Tommy (who was 11 at the time) started trying to catch him. The owner told him; “You can’t catch that dog! He’s so fast … I’ll give you $100 if you catch him!” We all laughed and went on with the conversation. Sometime later, Tommy walked up carrying the dog! We laughed, and congratulated him, and didn’t think anything else of it. A week or two after we had come back home, we received a letter from the man and enclosed was a check for $100.
I believe that is a good example of putting that characteristic into practice, but it’s not everyday that we jokingly offer someone $100 to catch a dog. For those of us who are daughters and sisters, this may be a more realistic example:
My younger sister asks me to go for a walk in the woods with her. I tell her that I will go as soon as I am finished with my sewing project. As I am nearing the completion of the project, our neighbor drops in to visit. It would be more enjoyable for me to stay and enjoy our neighbor’s company, but I told my sister that I would go for a walk with her. What should I do? We must be careful what we say, and let our “yea be yea” and our “nay be nay”.
? Those who do not practice usury: Practicing usury, means charging interest. There are verses in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, that specifically command us not to practice usury.
? Those who do not take a reward against the innocent: The word reward comes from the Hebrew word shakhad (Strongs# 7810), which also means; gift, present, and bribe. YHWH hates bribery. Numerous times, He commanded us not to take bribes. The wicked are often characterized by the fact that they take bribes.
In trying to apply this to everyday life, I thought about possible ways that we could be guilty of taking a bribe or reward. Anyone that is part of a large family, is probably very aware of the politics that take place among the children! I believe that one way we could be guilty of taking a bribe, is to take up a sibling’s defense … not necessarily because they are right, but because they behaved better to us that day than the other sibling did! Can anyone else relate?! In large families, there is usually some sort of “buddy system” … while all siblings should be good friends, certain ones have closer relationships with each other than others. Therefore, it can be a temptation to take someone’s side, simply because they are “our friend”. We have to be careful that we make righteous judgments, and not base our decision on whether so-and-so was nicer to us than someone else!!
On a closing note, we must keep in mind that it is possible for us to do some of these things, and not walk in communion with Yeshua. However, if we are abiding in Him, these characteristics will be displayed. Obviously, we all struggle with our sin nature. When we fall down, we have to repent and get back up. YHWH is not going to turn His back on us just because we fell short, but if we choose to continue sinning, we cannot live in fellowship with Him. Light cannot have fellowship with darkness – righteousness cannot have fellowship with wickedness.
For those of you who are not yet married, but would like to be … imagine with me for a few minutes. Think about the day when your “Prince Charming” walks into your life. When the man of your dreams arrives,what will your number one desire be? Will it not be to spend time with him? To learn all about him? To spend time in his presence, discovering all of his amazing qualities?
Now, let’s pull out of dream world, and think about our Savior. Did you know that once you accept Yeshua as your Savior from sin, you enter a betrothal covenant with Him? You are not yet married, but waiting for that wedding supper of the Lamb that we read about in Revelations. He loves you so much, that He was willing to shed His own blood in order to pay the bride price. He wants your company so badly … He died so that you could live with Him forever. Can you imagine the love of your life desiring to spend time with you, and you having other “important” things to do? How silly! We would be only too glad to spend time with our Prince Charming, basking in his presence; and yet too often we pass up time with our Heavenly Bridegroom, because we have other things to do.
My purpose in writing this article, is not to give a checklist of perfection, but rather to explore some of the physical, distinguishing factors, that reveal our intimacy with our Savior. May each one of us keep pressing on toward this goal, and remember the promise found at the end of Psalm 15:“He [she] that doeth these things shall never be moved.”