Study 2 THE HEAVENLY CITIZEN
(Scripture Portion: Psalm 15)
This brief but wonderful psalm presents to us a picture of a true citizen of Zion, one who is travelling on to the city of God, where he will dwell with Him for ever. The psalm may be said to be ethical rather than evangelical; it tells us what a Heavenly Citizen is like rather than the way to become a Heavenly Citizen. The psalm might well be entitled, “Practical Christianity”.
In verse 1 the psalmist asks God a two-fold question. What is the significance of and difference between “sanctuary” and “holy hill”? Is there perhaps a reference here to the Church Militant (on earth), typified by the Sanctuary/Tabernacle, and to the Church Triumphant (in Heaven)? Before we can go to Heaven we must be a member of the true Church on earth, so the psalmist asks, “Lord, who are those who belong to the true Church down here…and who are travelling on to the Heavenly City? Describe them, Lord.” And the rest of the psalm is the Lord’s description of these privileged pilgrims who are journeying Zion-wards to live forever with Him. Let us test ourselves by God’s ideal of the Christian life.
1. THE HEAVENLY CITIZEN IS ONE WHOSE LIFE IS BLAMELESS
Read verse 2. The thought contained in the word “blameless” is not that of perfection but of being without blame. Look up Philippians 2:15. We shall never be sinless down here, but we are to be blameless, harmless and without rebuke, that is, irreproachable. Recently I received a letter from a nearly-blind friend. The writing was not perfect, but it was absolutely blameless. Notice that it is our character that is to be blameless; our character is what we are in God’s sight – what we are in our heart (verse 2). We are to be blameless both in what we do (“walk“) and in what we say (“speak“). How is this possible? The secret of Philippians 2:15 is in Philippians 2:13!
2. THE HEAVENLY CITIZEN IS ONE WHO IS CHARITABLE TOWARDS HIS NEIGHBOUR
Compare verse 3 with Mark 12:31. The test of our love to our neighbours has to do with our tongue and our ear – what we say about them and what we hear about them. God’s ideal man will be very slow to say and very slow to hear anything harmful about another. In Leviticus 19:16, the tale-bearer is likened to a pedlar who goes from house to house selling his wares. How solemn to “sell” friends and fellow-believers! Look up 2 Thessalonians 3:11 and 1 Timothy 5:13. Beware of being a busybody – see James 1:26. Psalm 141:3 is a good prayer to pray.
3. THE HEAVENLY CITIZEN IS ONE WHO IS CAREFUL OF HIS FRIENDSHIPS
In the first part of verse 4 we have a negative and a positive description of the right kind of companions to have. We are constantly surrounded by worldly and ungodly people, but we are not to make them our bosom friends. We cannot be true to God if we court the friendship of ungodly people. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). We cannot serve two masters, God and mammon (Luke 16:13). How bad can be the influence of a bad friend; but how good can be the influence of a good friend! A great man was asked the reason for his success, and he replied, “Well – I had a friend!” So, “make friends of God’s children!
4. THE HEAVENLY CITIZEN IS ONE WHOSE WORD IS HIS BOND
He always keeps his promises; he is absolutely trustworthy. Look at the last part of verse 4. This means that if we make a solemn promise and then later discover that we have promised something that is to our own disadvantage, we will keep our word, and rather than break our promise we will be the losers. God will always honour us in such a case (1 Samuel 2:30; Matthew 6:33). This is certainly not the world’s way of doing things, but it is God’s way, and therefore it must be our way. It is very sad when a Christian breaks his word and cannot be trusted. Let us search our hearts in the light of this word.
5. THE HEAVENLY CITIZEN IS ONE WHO IS MERCIFUL IN HIS DEALINGS
Verse 5 tells us this. God has no place for the Christian employer who is very generous with his gifts to the church but keeps his employees working long hours for starvation wages. God’s people should never make unjust gains, especially as such a course can only be taken at someone else’s expense. This is also why gambling is wrong; it is ethically, morally and spiritually wrong – and therefore wrong for the Christian.
Now notice the concluding words of the psalm – the last phrase in verse 5.
In New Testament language it is summed up in 1 John 2:17. Let us be quite clear, however, that seeking to live the “good life” outlined in this psalm does not make one a Christian. The psalm does not tell us the way to be saved, but rather the way saved people should live. Look up Romans 3:20; Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5. Are we Citizens of Heaven? Are we Christians? If so, let us behave like Christians!