A heart prepared for worship is a matter of personal reflection and public testimony.

What does it mean for our hearts to be prepared for worship? Believe it or not, this has just as much to do with others as it does with ourselves. We must approach worship with inward purity, coming to God with a clean heart. But as one commentator puts it, God does not isolate our worship of Him from our relationship with our neighbor. In fact, having our hearts prepared for worship is a combination of personal reflection and public testimony.

Personal Examination

The original audience of Psalm 15 lived in the Old Testament era when approaching God was done through the Temple. Only priests and Levites could enter God’s presence, governed by strict ceremonial requirements. But the psalm gives moral and ethical requirements by which anyone may approach God. To be in God’s presence is to worship him. The word “worship” doesn’t appear in this chapter, but it is strongly insinuated if not assumed. God created us to worship Him, and being invited to join Him is an invitation to worship Him.

Who can come into God’s presence? This question is vital for the person preparing to worship. Its answer will cause us to examine ourselves. Psalm 15:1 assumes that we want to be part of the community that worships, and more than just once in a while. When we approach worship as a consumer instead of a producer, we will inevitably be dissatisfied and will not really be worshipping at all.

Public Testimony

Psalm 15:2-5 give an answer that the Israelite hearer wouldn’t be expecting. A prepared heart is a heart that lives out its faith the other six days of the week with his or her neighbor. Jesus defined neighbor quite broadly, even encompassing those who are quite different from us yet whom God has put into our lives (Luke 10:29-37). He also said that loving your neighbor sums up half of the Law (Matthew 22:38-40). how we live outside and away from the place of worship is just as much a preparation for worship as our personal introspection.

Psalm 15 gives 3 aspects of a public testimony:

  • Respectable Character (verse 2) – being a genuine person of integrity; showing spiritual sincerity in day-to-day life.
  • Restrained Words (verse 3) – refraining from being a gripe; showing verbal restraint when dealing with real people in real life.
  • Rightly-oriented Values (verses 4-5b) – valuing those who fear the Lord, promises we make, and souls over money.

Individual acts of spiritual maintenance enable us to come to worship corporately. Church is not a therapy session or a hospital where we bring our mess to get fixed. That mindset does not offer anything to God.

On the other hand, we could see this list as unattainable or think that God’s approval is based on performance. After all, Psalm 14:1-3 makes it clear that no one qualifies to enter God’s house. Another passage will help us strike a biblical balance. We must come to worship prepared, but we have been invited into God’s presence.

Even priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sins (Hebrews 5:1-4). These were never-ending reminders of their own sin (Hebrews 10:3). Yet God does want us to abide and reside with Him! Jesus offered himself once for all, perfected for all time those who are sanctified (Hebrews 10:11-14). The Holy Spirit affirms our position in Christ by reminding us that our sins will be remembered no more (Hebrews 10:15-18). There is no longer a need for offerings, because the Christian stands forgiven. Because of this, we can approach God’s presence and worship.

The Promise

Psalm 15:5b gives the answer we sometimes look for in worship. We bring our mess and want God to fix it; but instead of changing our circumstances, God changes us. These are the outcomes of one who “dwells in God’s holy hill.” They are not the means to an end; being with and worshipping God is the end. By worshipping with others and enjoying that privilege, we reap the benefit of security and stability.

Application Points

  • Do you approach worship as a giver or consumer? Who is your focus when you come to church?
  • Preparing our heart for worship is almost exclusively thought of as a personal, introspective activity. Yet almost every characteristic mentioned in Psalm 15 addresses our relationship to others. Do you have respectable character that others can see? Are your words restrained, not only in refraining from being a gripe – do you show verbal restraint when dealing with real people in real life? Are your values rightly oriented according to what God values?

4 applications from Hebrews 10:22-25:

  • Come boldly – Through the blood of Jesus Christ and righteousness of Christ charged to my account, we may come confidently, and we may answer “I can!” to Psalm 15:1.
  • Come genuinely – This righteousness is from Christ. As one theologian states, “These characteristics of Psalm 15 are not simply what God finds in you – they are what God creates in you.”
  • Come together – Throughout human history, God has always included a faith community in worship, and He always will. Part of the blessing of these spiritual realities is the opportunity to be with others who have experienced the same thing
  • Come often – this aspect of corporate worship is the natural consequence of the spiritual realities above. It means being spiritually oriented towards the value and the responsibility of worshipping God together and recognizing the spiritual inertia that results from honoring God this way (or not honoring God in this way). Worshipping God together is not just simply hearing a sermon – it is a family event. We show we love Christ by also loving His bride, the Church!

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Psalm 27:4, 61:4, 84:1-4 – A desire to be in God’s presence.

  • Psalm 10:6, Psalm 16:8-9, Psalm 46 – What it means not to be shaken.

  • Revelation 21:1-3 – Coming to God together.