June 14, 2016

"He swears to his own hurt"

Here is one of the character traits, according to Psalm 15, of the person who may “abide in [God’s] tent” and “dwell on [His] holy hill” (v.1) – “He swears to his own hurt and does not change” (v.4) – which means that a godly man keeps his promises and commitments, even when it proves costly to do so. A wonderful trait, and delightful to behold when we see it in one of our friends!

But I wonder if that is a character trait of most modern men and women, even most modern Christians. Are we people of our word? Do we pay our bills and debts like we contracted to do? Do we show up for meetings like we said we would? Do we actually pray when we tell our friends that we will do so? Are we following through on our marriage vows? Are we people of our word? Or do we demonstrate, by our vacillations, that we do not actually belong on God’s holy hill? Think about it in your own life. Do people know you as the kind of person whose word is his bond; who doesn’t back out of her commitments; who always pays up; whom they know they can trust and call upon, no matter what? Or are you the kind of person whose promises prove fairly flimsy when ‘something comes up’ – particularly when that something that comes up is the realization that following through on your word might be costly?

Or think of it like this: Which sort of friend, spouse, parent, child, co-worker, or client do you want  in your life? The one who is rock solid? Or the one whose word to you may falter when keeping it proves inconvenient? What sort of person do you want as a spouse; as a friend; as a brother or sister in Christ; to call upon when you are in a pinch? Isn’t it wonderful to have a friend, a customer, a co-worker, a deacon, an elder, or a family member on whom you know you can always count? Such people are like oak trees, are they not? You can lean on them. You can always be sure that they will be there, steady, on the horizon of your life. And, when need be, you can rest in their shade. And isn’t a comfort to know they are there? “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (Matthew 7:12).

Indeed, even further: Isn’t this commitment to one’s word, even when it hurts, precisely the example that Jesus Himself has left us, so that we might follow “in His steps”? The difficulty, for Jesus, was not that He made a promise which He later discovered was going to be painful to keep. No! He actually knew, when He made the commitment to be our Savior, that it would cost Him His blood, His dignity, His earthly life, and (for a season) even His fellowship with His Father. But He entered into “the eternal covenant” just the same … and kept it all the way through. “He [swore] to His own hurt and [did] not change.” Jesus knew all the times we would renege on our promises to God and to others. He knew all the other ways we’d break God’s law, too. And He knew how much it would cost Him to make payment for all these offenses. He knew that it would be “to His own hurt” – greater hurt than anyone else ever endured – to make such a payment. And yet He followed through!

And, because He did, Jesus is not only our example, but also our hope if we read these few lines from Psalm 15 and discover that we are among those who do not deserve to abide in God’s tent because we have not been men and women of our word. Christ died to cover our sins, praise God! And He also died so that, in Him, we would have the power to leave them behind, as well. So that Jesus is not only our example when it comes to keeping our word, and our hope when we realize that we have not always done so … but also our help to begin to walk with integrity as we go forward! So look to Him in all these ways, my friends – and (v.5) you “will never be shaken.”

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