In Psalm 11 we read about the importance of fleeing to the temple; this Psalm is about who we need to be in order to be able to shelter at the temple.
Tabernacle is an interesting word. The Hebrew word in Psalms 15:1 that's been translated as "tabernacle" is ohel: a tent. while it's rendered as "tabernacle" 198 times, it's also rendered as "tent" almost as many times: 141 times. Genesis 4:20 talks about Jabal as the "father of such as dwell in tents", and it can even be used to mean housing for animals, as in 2 Chronicles 14:15, where Asa, king of Judah, has appealed to the Lord for assistance in repelling Ethiopian invaders, who are soundly defeated, followed home, and their cities spoiled, and the tents of their cattle destroyed, and the livestock driven off. The Hebrew ohel is used in each case: the tent for the animals, the tent of the people, and the holy tent that is the Tabernacle of the Lord.
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
It's very interesting to me that there is so much overlap in the language used to describe the people's homes, and the language that's used to describe the holiest places of worship: ohel meant both Tabernacle and also the tents that people lived in, and our bodies are even referred to as tabernacles. Today we live in houses, and when we visit the temple we go to the "House of the Lord".
In reading the Old Testament with my boys, we've had a chance to hear the lengthy descriptions of the Tabernacle that was built in Moses's day several times. I've gradually realized that there's a lot that's interesting in the account of building the tabernacle (It starts in Exodus 25.), and a lot of symbolism in it.
So when we are invited to the tabernacle, or in our day, to the temple, in a way we are visiting not only one of the Earth's most holy places, designed to instruct us and to help us remember Him, but we are also invited to, at least symbolically, visit God's home. The 15th Psalm is instructions for what kind of person we need to be.
In English, "upright" means to be strictly honorable and honest. But the Hebrew word this was translated from is even more demanding: tamiym is translated into several different words in the King James version, "without blemish" being the most common.
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righetousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
When one is described as tamiym, there is nothing in his outward activities or internal disposition that is odious to God. This word describes his entire relationship to God.
-Strong's Concordance, entry for tamiym, Hebrew 8549
The Psalmist continues, describing several things we must avoid doing as we seek to make our abode with the Lord:
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines backbiting as: To censure, slander, reproach, or speak evil of the absent. And it defines a reproach as: To censure in terms of opprobrium or contempt, to charge with a fault in severe language, to treat with scorn or contempt. This is not an endorsement of today's brand of "tolerance" that pretends that vice is as respectable as virtue; the next verse continues:
He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor take up a reproach against his neighbor.
Rather, I think this is commentary on how we ought to treat each other. To contemn means to consider unworthy of regard or respect. So at the same time that we draw a sharp distinction between that which is vile and that which is upright or tamiym, we should be careful to draw a distinction between the sin and the sinner, and to treat all God's children kindly.
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord.
|From The Virtue of Kindness, April Conference 2005|
The last verse and a half of the Psalm continues to deal with the standards of integrity and with our treatment of others:
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned;but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that swearth to his own hurt, and changest not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent.
I love that this Psalm starts and ends with promises of blessings: the Psalmist begins by asking who will abide in, dwell in, the House of the Lord. And then, after outlining the character requirements, he finishes with this:
He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
|Temple photo courtesy the LDS Image Library.|
Click the button to see the index for my Bible Study posts, or come join the conversation over on Facebook; we'd love to have you.