1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? 2 The one whose way of life is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; 3 whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others; 4 who despises a vile person but honours those who fear the Lord; who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; 5 who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”
Recently I watched a gardening programme on TV which as one of the features included coverage of a daffodil show. I had no idea that competition was so tight and the standards so exacting. One of the judges explaining the marking system said that he had never known a bloom to received the maximum ten points and that an exceptional flower might receive seven or eight tops. There is a strict standard by which they measure each variety of daffodil but no individual flower is ever perfect.
It is the same for people. This psalm sets out the exacting standard for those who can enter God’s presence or draw near to worship, but like the daffodils none of us ever reach the perfection envisaged by the psalm. We are dealing here with matters of the heart and whether the heart is set towards God. How though, can we tell if not by a person’s behaviour including behaviour towards others? Claims of devotion are easy to make, praise may simply be words on our lips a good feeling for a few minutes but a person’s consistent behaviour in obedience to God is the true measure of character and worship. This is the kind of worshippers God seeks. These are the people who can dwell in his presence.
Now immediately you see the problem. If we cannot reach these standards then who can rightfully rest in the presence of God or hope to encounter him in worship him? The depressing answer is no-one yet in the grace of God in several places the bible sets our minds at ease and gives us hope. For example Psalm 130:3-4 “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Even in the Old Testament God received people on the basis of grace. We see an answer too in Revelation 4 and 5 where John has a vision of worship in heaven and no-one is found worthy to approach God, take and open the scroll in his hand. John is grief stricken by this failure and weeps uncontrollably until he is told by one of the elders present “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Jesus Christ is the only truly perfect human being and he by living the perfect life as described in this psalm and by dying in the place of sinners has reconciled God and human kind. Only as those he has rescued, those who trust in him and whose sins are covered by his sacrifice can we hope to dwell in God’s presence and worship him.