Psalm 15:1-5 New Jerusalem Bible
Yahweh, who can find a home in your tent?
Who can dwell on your holy mountain?
Imagine yourself in an endless desert where a shimmering horizon blends with a burning celestialum. Tawny dunes meet a beige, sunburnt heaven. The wind covers your footprints as if you never came this way. You suspect you have been walking in circles. This austere wilderness is so quiet you can hear your exhausted heart beat and hot blood pumping through sweating temples. Your eyes, sun-blind. Your mouth, dry as forsaken earth. The time has come to think about dying quietly at the bottom of mountain-high dunes like endless waves in a cursed sea.
At this moment of complete and desperate loss, the waving tops of date palms appear above a sandy slope. You must use every bit of strength and crawl forward to the crest. Your dead heart leaps and dried eyes strain to remain open. A palm oasis by a cobalt spring! Delightful birds nest in trees and brush. Lush greens and flowers the homes to butterflies. And in the blissful shade . . . a nomadic tent.
Crawling forward you collapse in the heaven-sent shade beside the quiet pond. From the tent emerges an ancient man, older than time itself, with copper skin and white hair. He carefully tends to your needs and brings you back to consciousness. You rest within this nomad’s tent, reclining on Arabic carpets under the protective shade of tightly woven goat’s hair. You feed on milk and dates and your strength returns.
Your host is kindness and charity itself, his voice quiet and caring. ‘How did you become lost?’ he asks. How did I become lost? you wonder, without knowing how to answer. Nor can you answer his questions: ‘Where are you from? Where are you going?’ You do not know for the desert is endless without hope of escaping its brutality.
In that famous hospitality of the Middle East, your ancient host assures you of three days of his care until you move on. ‘Move on where?’ you ask to the ancient’s shrug. ‘I am completely lost and have no where to go,’ you say. The ancient replies warmly, ‘You may always stay here.’ But, before you can accept this kind offer, he continues: ‘You may live here eternally among friends. However, I ask you agree to ten requirements.’ I wonder why there must be such "requirements" but before I can ask, the ancient tells me, ‘To protect those already here under my care. You are not forced to observe these requirements. You are free to leave.’
You ask the ancient, ‘I may remain in your tent forever if I but observe the rules of your tent? You will care for all my needs if I but keep these requirements of yours?’ As the ancient nods, you ask further, ‘What is it you ask of me?’
As the ancient begins to explain you think of all those you knew who lived without rules, thinking they could do just as they pleased. The ancient lists ten requirements to continue to live in his tent under his eternal care. He explains each point simply and patiently.
This requires you to observe revealed and natural laws as a law-abiding person who does nothing to harm others.
This requires you always speak the truth and never lie so others will know you are an honest and trustworthy person.
This requires you think before you speak. An uncontrolled tongue is evidence of an egotistical person who does not consider others. The tongue can do great harm to others.
This requires you treat others as you would be treated. Your conduct toward others always considering their highest good.
This requires you never speak evilly of your neighbor just as you wish no one speak ill of you.
This requires you hate what is evil or vile and abhor anyone who would mistreat a neighbor.
This requires that God become everything to you and you deeply respect your fellow worshippers.
This requires that if you promise to do something for a neighbor you keep your word even if it turns out not to be in your best interests. Your Yes must mean Yes.
This requires that if you have business dealings with others, or come to the financial aid of others you, never demand interest on your loan. If you were in need you would be happy if your friend never insists you repay his kindness. By this you show material things are not your first concern.
This requires you never be bought to harm another. There are many kinds of "bribes" including emotional ones, but you must never succumb to agree to hurt the innocent.
When the ancient has finished you ask the benefit of these requirements to yourself. The ancient replies: ‘No one who so acts can ever be shaken.’
The ancient concludes: ‘You see nothing required of you is harmful to your person. These requirements of mine are meant for everyone’s highest good. By observing these you will never destroy the harmony of your associations nor bring ruin to yourself. You will reside in the Tent of Yahweh forever.’
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
Back to Index to Biblical Articles