Psalm 15: Lord, May I Dwell with You?

From my Psalm 15 study notes:

I’ve got to admit: it’s almost depressing reading Psalm 15. Not only is it works righteousness, but it sets the bar impossibly high. Who may dwell in God’s sanctuary? No one…

I believe that if we’re going to take God’s Word seriously, we have to begin with what the text actually says. Too often, we’re quick to explain away something as allegory because we don’t like its primary message. (Song of Solomon, anyone?). Having said that, we also need to dig beneath the surface if we’re going to let the Spirit speak to us through scripture.

Psalm 15 initially struck me as a spiritual checklist for those who want to be close to God: be blameless, speak honestly, don’t take bribes, and hate the wicked. I thought to myself, “How in the world am I going to write a song based on this Psalm?” Perhaps recast it as a confession? (“Forgive us for not living up to these godly traits.”) Or answer the question “who may dwell?” with the answer “Jesus–the only truly perfect One.” “How can we dwell? Only through Jesus.”

In the end, I decided to turn the Psalm into a prayer of devotion. The chorus is a prayer of aspiration, “Lord, may I dwell with you?” and the verses pray for the strength and guidance to live the godly life outlined in the Psalm. The music is in a simple, Taizé-like style, with verses chanted over the chorus. This also allows the chorus to be used independently as a scripture song, focusing on the deeper message of the Psalm: a desire to dwell in God’s presence, knowing God as a refuge and our true home.

Lord, may I dwell with you?
Lord, may I dwell with you?
Lord, may I know your refuge, my home.
Lord, may I dwell with you?

1. Who may remain in your presence?
Who may live in your holy place?
The blameless, the righteous, and those who speak truth.
Lord, may I dwell with you?

2. Lord, may my tongue speak no ill;
let me do my neighbor no wrong,
pay no heed to the proud, but honor the just.
Lord, may I dwell with you?

3. Lord, help me keep my word.
Let me be generous and honest.
Keep me secure in your perfect will.
Lord, may I dwell with you?

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