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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 19, 2005
Looking for Few Good Men
The Few. The Proud. That is the current recruiting slogan for the U.S. Marine Corps, but being a bit older, I will always associate the Marines with, Looking for a Few Good Men. It is not that the Marines required these recruits to already meet the Marine standard, but that the recruit was willing to go through what would be needed to make them into those “Few Good Men.” To be a Marine, you have to learn self discipline, submission to authority, commitment, endurance, loyalty, integrity. Each of those are qualities that should be in any man, not just Marines. The tragedy is that it does end up being the few, not the many, that meet the standard.
Today is Father’s Day, and I want to talk to you about the qualities of good men, for in order to be a good dad, you have to be a good man. God is “looking for a few good men,” and they are hard to find. Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, But who can find a trustworthy man?” In Ecclesiastes 7:27,28 Solomon says he was only able to find one in a thousand and concluded, “Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.”
What are the qualities of a good man and a good father? How do you gain those qualities in your own life so that you may be “one in a thousand?” There are many passages that make a point here or there, but one passage that gives several all in one place is Psalm 15. We will look at that Psalm this morning in order to lay a foundation we can expand on in a future sermon.
Men, this is for you, so pay attention. This is what God wants you to be. Ladies, if you are already married, then rejoice if your husband is already like this, but pay close attention if he is not and learn how God wants you to help him become the man God wants him to be. If you are not married, then pay even more attention so you know what characteristics to look for in a future husband, and who to stay far, far away from lest you end of up with a man that will be a constant source of grief.
This Psalm of David was probably written about the time of the moving of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). Psalm 24 is a companion Psalm of similar content. Perhaps David was concerned that the worship of God would degenerate into mere ritual in the future, and he wrote this Psalm to remind the worshipers of the true nature of worship as seen in the character of those coming to worship. It is more probable that this Psalm was written because of the great concern caused by the occasion of the first attempt to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem. The people had found out in that attempt that God has an exacting standard for those who will come to worship Him. Though Uzzah was trying to help get the Ark to Jerusalem (a good thing), he was irreverent in the way he tried to accomplish the task, and the result was that God struck him dead on the spot (2 Sam. 6:6,7). The natural question would have arisen after this incident of who was qualified to abide in God’s tent and dwell on His holy hill. Who will God accept to come and worship Him?
The first verse is a rhetorical question posed by a Godly man who desired to teach his people the correct answer. “O LORD, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?”
The point of the question is not “who may live in your tent and set up residence on your holy hill.” The words “abide” and “dwell” used here are more temporary in nature. They would be better translated as “sojourn” or “stay.” Although we also do need to keep in mind that those who qualified to sojourn in God’s tent on His holy hill are the same ones who will live with Him forever. David’s question of God is, “who is qualified to come to You? O Lord, who will you accept when he/she comes to Thy house? Who may come to worship you?
The answer in the Psalm may seem surprising in comparison to other passages of Scripture, for the usual answer given is centered around some spiritual issue such as faith, belief, the heart, etc. This Psalm sets forth the qualifications in terms of demonstrated characteristics. There is good reason for this. Jesus said in Matt 12:34,35 that the mouth reveals the heart, and the Apostle James said in James 2:14f that the works of a person reveal their faith. A person’s actions do reveal what is in their heart. And in the case of the actions described here, they are the characteristics that reveal a heart that seeks after God in righteousness.
In verse 2 David begins to describe the man who can come to worship God by giving three general characteristics of that man.
1. He Walks in Integrity
2. He Works Righteousness
3. His Word is truthful – from the heart.
The first characteristic is that he walks in integrity. The word here is broad in meaning, but the idea is to be complete in moral conduct. The one that walks with integrity is a person whose character is decent, moral, sincere, honest, honorable, respectable. The KJV “uprightly” is a good description. C.H. Spurgeon likened this to a man walking a tight rope. He stands straight up and does not sway in either direction lest he fall.
Integrity is a quality that is not as common in our nation as it once was. Integrity upholds truth even when hidden and costs you when exposed. Such was the case for young a Christian football player who at the homecoming game received a low pass in the end zone that meant winning the game. The referee called out “Touchdown!” The fans went wild and young man was a hero to his school – until he walked up to the referee and shook his head and said, “I trapped it.” The touchdown was canceled and they lost the game. Integrity was more important to this good young man than being the school hero.
Integrity was also seen in author Nora Waln, who prior to WWII exposed Hitler and his Nazi plotters in her book, Reaching for the Stars. In custody of the Nazi’s and offered freedom for herself and her friends if she would write a book that would make Hitler appear good, she replied, “I am willing to forfeit my life, but not my beliefs.”
The good man walks in integrity. For the Christian, integrity is probably best described in 1 John 2:6 “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” Are you living like Jesus did?
The second characteristic is that he works righteousness. In the Christian, this is a natural out-growth of walking in integrity. This is doing that which is right regardless of the outcome. This man’s faith is alive because it is put into practice. James 2:17 states that “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” Working righteousness is the expected result of faith. Eph. 2:8-10 explains that salvation is by grace through the faith that God gives us (Eph 2:8), and when God gives faith, it will result in works because “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” A man walking with integrity will work righteousness. His conduct demonstrates the reality that he is of blameless character.
Righteousness differs from integrity in that the standard of righteousness is the holiness of God while the standard of integrity can be the individual or society. We are saved so that we might be holy and blameless before God (Eph. 1:4). Through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us (Phil. 3:9) so that we have a standing before God that is holy and blameless. However, we are also being conformed into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29) so that our practice of holiness will begin to match our position of righteousness. The man who can abide with God is the one that demonstrates this characteristic of seeking and doing God’s will over his own.
The third characteristic is also one of the quickest revelations of what is in a man’s heart, for what comes out of his mouth reveals it (Mt. 12:34). James 4:2 goes so far as to say that “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” However, take note of what the Psalmist says. He does not say just a “man who speaks truth.” No, David goes further on and says this is a man who speaks “truth from the heart.” There are those who speak shallowly with their tongue. They have learned not only to keep the common courtesies of speech, but also to say what other people want to hear. The Bible gives many warnings against such flatterers (Psalm 5:9; 12:2; Prov. 26:28; 29:5; Rom. 16:18; Jude16).
However, the man of integrity, the man of blameless conduct speaks truth because it is on his heart! He will speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). He will also be careful how he says things so that they edify others according to the need of the moment (Eph. 4:29), but he will also speak the truth regardless of what those listening would like him to say. How quickly people will compromise the truth to either avoid trouble or manipulate others in order to get what they want. The godly man speaks truth from his heart.
Who can come to the mountain of God? Who may dwell in God’s presence? The man that walks in integrity, works righteousness and speaks truth in his heart. These attributes are his enduring qualities, and they lay the foundation for the rest of the qualities of godliness.
While verse 2 gives positive characteristics, Verse 3 details specific sins are that are avoided. Verse 3 says
He does not slander with his tongue,
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
The man walking in integrity, having blameless conduct and speaking the truth from the heart, will avoid using his tongue to slander, or working evil against his neighbor, or allowing a friend to be slandered.
The true worshiper of God will refrain from using his mouth to defame another. Slander is not just defaming someone else by telling lies and half truths against them. It also includes character assassination, cheap shots, innuendo, and saying things in such a way as to build yourself up by tearing down the other person. Gossip and slander are related because gossip that contains a falsehood is slander.
The Scriptures give a lot of warnings about slander, gossip and the tongue. James 2 calls the tongue a “fire,” “a restless evil,” and “full of deadly poison.” Slander separates intimate friends (Prov. 16:28), and those who spread it are fools (Prov. 10:18), therefore do not associate with such people (Prov. 20:19). Tragically, too often people like to hear such things because the whisperer’s words go down like dainty morsels (Prov. 26:22). In our foolishness we get the idea that somehow we are morally superior when we hear something bad about others, particularly if it is against those in a leadership position. Because church leaders are a particular target for slanderers, 1 Tim. 5:19 warns us “not to receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses.” (I am sorry to say that this verse has not been heeded well and a lot of slander has been made against the church leaders here). Because a godly man walks in integrity, he will not slander.
We also find in verse 3 that the Godly man does not practice any evil against his neighbor. This is really only stating from the negative position what was said positively before. A man who works righteousness is not going to also work evil against his neighbor. The demonstration of the man’s character will be seen in what he does. A tree is known to be good or bad by its fruit (Mt. 7:16-20). The same is true of a man. You will know his character by the fruit of his life.
The third activity the godly man will avoid is taking up the reproach of a friend. This is actually stronger than it may seem at first glance in English. The idea of not “taking up” goes beyond not just refusing to join in. It actually refers to his not “receiving” it. This man not only refrains from slander, but when a reproach against his friend is brought in his presence, he seeks to put a stop to it. He will call gossip what it is and rebuke the one spreading it. That shows integrity in friendship as well as a pursuit of righteousness and truth.
Gossip and slander can be quenched fairly easily. They will die if no one will listen to it. Prov. 26:20 “For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” But verse 21 adds that they quickly grow if people do listen for “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.” Slander is stopped quickly when you force the issue of truth. When someone tells you a tale about someone else, take them with you to the person they were slandering and have them repeat their accusations face to face. If they will not go, then go yourself and tell them who is saying what about them. Then you will be able to find out the truth.
Gossip and slander have destroyed friendships, families and many churches and ministries. Proverbs says many things about the subject: 10:18 “He who conceals hatred has lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool.” 11:9 With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered. 16:27,28 A worthless man digs up evil, While his words are as a scorching fire. A perverse man spreads strife, And a slanderer separates intimate friends. 17:4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips, A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue. Stop gossip by refusing to receive it, and then rebuke the one trying to give it. Ask them if it is true, good and useful. If it is none of those, then you do not need to hear it. You are either part of the solution, or part of the problem.
A good man is marked by what he will not do. He refrains from speaking slander himself. He does do evil to his neighbor, and he will not receive gossip. In the next verse we find that he also knows who deserves honor and who does not.
In whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
But who honors those who fear the LORD;
Christians are to give honor to whom honor is due, and we give respect to an office of authority (Rom. 13:7), but we do not violate our conscience and give honor to reprobates. A reprobate is someone who pursues evil in preference to good. The word used here is also translated as “vile” (KJV), “depraved” (DBY), and “rejected” (YLT). We should have an aversion to such people because their conduct is abhorred by our Lord. David gives greater expression to this attitude and its actions in Psalm 103:3-5 saying, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil. Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” Even so, we still pray for them and seek their salvation, however, we do not respect and honor them, that is reserved for those who fear the LORD. You can tell a lot about a man’s character by who he admires, sets up as a role model or considers a hero. Who are your heroes?
The character of a good man is also seen in how he keeps his promises. The end of verse four says, “He swears to his own hurt, and does not change.” This is not referring to someone promising to do stupid things and then being stubborn about it such as Jephthah in Judges 9. Foolish vows need to be confessed for what they are, and depending on the specific promise that was made, either seek forgiveness for the actual inability to keep it, or seek grace and mercy from those to whom you made the promise to allow you to back out of it or substitute something else. You must be careful about promising to be in one place and forgetting that you are also to be in another place at the same time, or about over estimating your abilities and promising to do something you actually cannot do. Think before you promise lest you demonstrate yourself to be either a fool or a liar. And be even more careful when you make a vow before God. Deut. 23:21 states, “When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the Lord your God will surely require it of you.”
The godly man keeps his promises even though he personally suffers because of it. This verse is referring to the man who though he was careful in agreeing to a contract later finds that things turn sour. He knows that he is going to end up losing on the deal, yet he is still true to the agreement and upholds his end of the arrangement. This man puts his word and honor first and financial gain or personal difficulty second. He lives out Proverbs 22:1 ‘A good name is to be more desired than great riches, Favor is better than silver and gold.” Spurgeon said, “the most far-seeing trader may enter into engagements which turn out to be serious losses, but whatever else he loses, if he keeps his honor, his losses will be bearable; if that be lost all is lost.” Because the good man walks in integrity, works righteousness and speaks the truth from his heart, he also keeps his promises.
Verse 5. In this verse we find that the good character is also revealed in his attitude toward money.
He does not put out his money at interest,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
The man who comes to worship God understands the mercy and grace given to him, so he extends that to others. One of the things condemned and forbidden in Scripture was the practice of usury. It was and is not uncommon for a poor person to be in some desperate situation and need money to sustain himself. The proper practice was for those funds to be loaned to a fellow Jews at no interest (Exod. 22:25). They were to be an extension of God’s graciousness to others. Instead, the practice developed of charging usury (interest) on that money. The result was that the poor person would only sink farther into debt. What little livelihood he had would be stripped from him.
The character of a man can be seen by his response to the poor. If his heart is set on money and material goods, then he will jump at the chance of collecting interest though it is at the expense of the poor person. If he understands God’s grace to him, then he will extend grace and mercy to the poor and help them out without seeking personal gain.
The same thing is true when it comes to bribes. A man’s character is revealed by whether he takes them or refuses them. A man whose heart is in the world will give up his integrity in order to gain financially. Bribes corrupt hearts (Eccl. 7:7), pervert justice (Deut. 16:19), and eventually bring the wrath of God, for bribes were one of the reasons for God’s judgement of Israel (Isa. 5:23). The good man refuses all bribes.
The final conclusion in verse 5 comments on the result of having a good character.
He who does these things will never be shaken.
This man will be firm, unmovable. The storms of life will come, but the strength of his faith will hold, for it is in his heart and is demonstrated outwardly. Testing will come, but it will only increase his faith in the same way that an athlete is strengthened through exercise. And as long as he continues to practice these things, he will not stumble.
The Bible gives many other characteristics of a good man which we can expand on in the future – things such as: delighting in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1); the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal. 5:22,23); has the characteristics of maturity: temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance (Titus 2:2). They love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25); properly lead and manage their own households (1 Tim. 3:4); diligently teach their children godliness (Deut. 6:4-9); stand up for what is right and protect others (Job 29:13-17).
God is looking for a few good men. Are you one of them? Are you willing to be? It only happens by first humbly submitting yourself to the Lord, and then standing up and uncompromisingly caring out the Lord’s will by obeying His commands and following His precepts.
Ladies, do you want your husband to be a good man? Then fulfill your God given role first and foremost, then encourage him, build him up and assist him to fulfill his role. The wise woman builds her house, the foolish tear it down with her own hands (Prov. 14:1). Nagging, complaining, belittling, and being contentious are all fast ways to tear down your man and your house.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) List the characteristics of good man. Talk them over with your parents.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Why are good men so hard to find? What is the background of Psalm 15? What is the relationship between belief (faith) and actions? What does it mean to walk in integrity? Give examples. What does it mean to work righteousness? Is that an option for the Christian? Why or why not? How does the tongue reveal the character of a person? What is slander? What does the Bible say about slander, gossip, flattery? How can you stop slander and gossip? What is a reprobate? How do you balance giving honor to whom it is due (Rom. 13:7) and despising the reprobate? Who does the Christian honor? Who are your heroes? Why? What is the difference between properly collecting interest on an investment and usury? What evils are associated with bribes? What other characteristics exist in a “good men.” How can you be a godly man, or how can you help the man (men) in your life become godly?
Sermon Notes – 6/19/05 a.m.
Looking for A Few Good Men – Selected Scriptures
Walks in Integrity
Word is truthful – from the heart.
Does not Slander
Does no evil
Does not take up a Reproach
Gives Proper Honor
Keeps His Word
Does not Practice Usury
Miscellaneous Scriptures / Characteristics:
Ephesians 5:25; 1 Tim. 3:4; Deut. 6:4-9
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