A Tongue and A Holy Hill
The title seems a bit vague doesn’t it? But it is not. Yesterday I wrote an introductory post on the nature of the noxious and notorious sin of gossip. I used strong words because our Lord uses strong words. One of the challenges of teaching and preaching is to not inadvertently reduce the impact of the Word of God’s terminology. We must let it say what it says and deal with it there. And when the bible talks about gossip, slander, tale-bearing, and accusations there is little kindness exhibited.
Hear first the Word of our Lord from Psalm 15):O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.
He does not slander with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised, But who honors those who fear the LORD; He swears to his own hurt and does not change;
He does not put out his money at interest, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
David speaks of God’s tent and God’s holy hill and they refer to the tabernacle of God and Mount Zion where it would rest until the Temple was built. It speaks to the presence of God and the ability to dwell with God. Who is welcomed by God as a worshiper? That is what is being asked.
To understand this rightly we must remember that it is written to people who belong to the covenant of Moses. It is not written to those outside of Israel as an invitation to come and worship, but to those who are already “inside.” But, of course, many in Israel were inside in name only for their hearts were far from God. And so, in this Psalm, David gives clear instruction as to those whom God receives as worshipers.
Notice that it is focused on character and not position, wealth, power, poverty, or anything else external of the heart. It is interested in the state of the heart and the overflow of that heart into their lives. There are six couplets that define a person who is welcomed by God to come and worship:
- He approaches life with a seriousness about his works (2a)
- He uses speech for righteous reasons (2b-3)
- He treats his fellow man properly and respectfully (3b-c)
- He is known by those with whom he associates (4a-b)
- His word is good (4c)
- He is not a lover of money (5a-b)
Now all of these are worthy of expansion but I only will give my attention to the second point. David deals with the internal speech first (2b). It is a uprightness of speech and it is that hidden speech that is in his heart. God despises hypocrisy. Many a person can smile with his mouth and snarl in his heart. Many can say the right thing because he is supposed to, but in his heart hate and despise. But not one who wishes to worship.
Now David consider the external speech (3a). The slanderer’s tongue is a great evil. Slander is speaking that which is false with the intention to hurt. It is different from gossip, which is speaking that which is true with the intention to hurt–though there is certainly overlap and usually both are present at the same event.
Gossip and slander has many great allies today to help them spread: Text messages, blogs, emails and the ubiquitous cell phone. It is interesting that alongside the grievous sins of sexual immorality and homosexuality listed in Romans 1, that Paul adds the slanderer and the gossip. The KJV translates them as “whisperers and backbiters.” J. B. Phillips does it even better by doing, “”whisperers-behind-doors, stabbers-in-the-back.”
Understand this and understand it well, you cannot come to God and worship if your tongue and your heart are filled with hate and evil speech. You cannot get off the phone having shared your supposed prayer requests and then have a good quiet time with God. Therefore it is worth one’s time to consider if their lack of spiritual growth is due to a mouth that causes them to be far from God.
The true worshiper has much in which to hope (5c). He will never be shaken. There is a depth and stability that comes with being a man or woman of faithfulness and righteousness. The big talker is just that, a big talker; cheap, they are a dime a dozen. But a faithful person is a rare jewel who is to be treasured.
How are you approaching life? Are you digging a deep foundation that is upon the Rock of Jesus Christ? Are you preparing for the storms of life by storing up wisdom now? The promise is certain, you will never be shaken and you shall withstand all that this world shall hurl at you.
What about those who are caught up in gossip and slander? Recognize that it is deadly and soul-destroying. Recognize that you are not welcomed by God to come and worship. You need to set aside your bible and your notes and go be reconciled. You need to separate from fellow gossipers and you need to begin to put on good, grace-filled language that is timely and beautifully adorned by one established by the gospel of Jesus.