YOU can be God’s friend. Some 4,000 years ago, the man Abraham put faith in Jehovah God. This was counted to him as righteousness, and that patriarch came to be called “Jehovah’s friend.” (James 2:23) So if you have faith in Jehovah, you can also be God’s friend.
Friends are likely to be invited to a meal as guests. In fact, part of the well-known 23rd Psalm represents God as a gracious host. It says: “You [Jehovah] arrange before me a table in front of those showing hostility to me. . . . My cup is well filled.”—Psalm 23:5.
On another occasion, the same psalmist—King David of ancient Israel—asked: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? Who will reside in your holy mountain?” (Psalm 15:1) Figuratively, this means having access to Jehovah in acceptable prayer and worship. What an awesome privilege! How can imperfect humans possibly qualify to be God’s friends and guests?
The 15th Psalm answers this question. It mentions ten specific requirements for those desiring to be God’s friends and guests. Let us consider these requirements one by one, starting with verse 2.
“He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness”
Abraham’s offspring flourished greatly because Abraham was morally faultless in walking before Jehovah. (Genesis 17:1, 2) “Walking” sometimes means pursuing a certain course in life. (Psalm 1:1; 3 John 3, 4) For God’s friends and guests, it is not enough to belong to a religion, delight in its ornate buildings, and share in formal observances. Not all who say “Lord, Lord” or declare that they know God will enjoy the blessings of his Kingdom. (Matthew 7:21-23; Titus 1:16) Jehovah’s friends ‘walk faultlessly’ in his sight and ‘practice righteousness’ according to his standards.—Micah 6:8.
This rules out every form of dishonesty, sexual immorality, and corruption. God himself tells us why, saying: “You must be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) Does your religion adhere to God’s high standards, even disfellowshipping those who refuse to conform to his requirements? Do you insist on righteous conduct for yourself and your family? If so, you will be meeting the next requirement for God’s friends and guests.
“And speaking the truth in his heart”
If we want God’s friendship, we cannot lie or resort to smooth talk with a double heart. (Psalm 12:2) We must ‘speak the truth in our heart,’ not just have it on our lips. Yes, we have to be inwardly honest and must give evidence of “faith without hypocrisy.” (1 Timothy 1:5) Some people lie or speak half-truths to save face. Others cheat on school tests or falsify tax returns. Such actions betray a lack of love for what is true. But truthfulness and upright acts come from the very hearts of God’s friends. (Matthew 15:18-20) They are not devious or deceptive.—Proverbs 3:32; 6:16-19.
The apostle Paul wrote: “Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality.” (Colossians 3:9, 10) Yes, those who really speak the truth in their heart clothe themselves with “the new personality.” Are you completely honest with yourself and others, speaking the truth in your heart? If you are, that should affect what you say about others.
“He has not slandered with his tongue”
To meet this requirement for God’s guests, we must never speak maliciously about others. (Psalm 15:3) The Hebrew verb rendered “slandered” is derived from the word for “foot” and means “to foot it” and thus “to go about.” The Israelites were commanded: “You must not go around among your people for the sake of slandering. You must not stand up against your fellow’s blood. I am Jehovah.” (Leviticus 19:16; 1 Timothy 5:13) If we slander someone, robbing him of his good name, we cannot be God’s friends.
David declared: “Anyone slandering his companion in secrecy, him I silence.” (Psalm 101:5) We too can silence slanderers if we refuse to listen to them. And a good rule is to say nothing about a person behind his back that we would not be willing to say to his face. It is fine if we have our tongue under such control. Yet, how important it is to control our actions too!
“To his companion he has done nothing bad”
Noteworthy here are Jesus’ words: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) To enjoy God’s favor, we must refrain from doing what is bad. The psalmist said: “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the souls of his loyal ones; out of the hand of the wicked ones he delivers them.” (Psalm 97:10) So if we want God’s friendship and help, we must accept his standards.
Shunning what is bad includes not wronging anybody in business dealings or in other ways. In word and deed, we must do nothing to harm our companion, but we should be doing good things for him. This can touch every aspect of life. For instance, when driving, we may courteously yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. We can help the elderly, encourage the despondent, comfort the grieving. In this regard, Jehovah sets the prime example. As Jesus said, God “makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-48) Akin to doing good to others is complying with what the psalmist next mentions.
“And no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance”
All of us make mistakes, and how grateful we are when friends choose to overlook these minor errors! We would be distressed if an intimate friend revealed our minor but embarrassing weaknesses to others. Some people do this to divert attention from their own faults or to make themselves appear superior to others. But such acts do not befit those desiring to be God’s friends.
“The one covering over transgression is seeking love, and he that keeps talking about a matter is separating those familiar with one another,” says Proverbs 17:9. Of course, we should not try to conceal serious wrongdoing. (Leviticus 5:1; Proverbs 28:13) But if we want to be God’s friends, we will not ‘take up,’ or receive as true, reproachful stories about upright acquaintances. (1 Timothy 5:19) Jehovah’s friends speak well of God’s servants instead of spreading tales about them, adding to what they already bear from evil reproaches by ungodly men. God’s friends and guests also guard their associations, for David adds in verse 4:
“In his eyes anyone contemptible is certainly rejected”
Seeking selfish benefits, some people keep company with rich or prominent persons even if they are corrupt. (Compare Jude 16.) But we cannot be Jehovah’s friends if we associate with the wicked. We should hate evil so much that we do not want to have fellowship with those who practice it. (Romans 12:9) So bad was Israel’s king Jehoram that the prophet Elisha told him: “As Jehovah of armies before whom I do stand is living, if it were not that it is the face of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah for which I am having consideration, I would not look at you or see you.” (2 Kings 3:14) To be God’s friends, we must heed Paul’s warning: “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Corinthians 15:33.
If we value Jehovah’s friendship, then, we will refuse to associate with wrongdoers. We will do only necessary business with them. Our friends will be chosen for their good relationship with God, not for their standing in the world. We will choose friends wisely if we have a reverential fear of God. In this regard, note the seventh requirement to be met by Jehovah’s guests.
“But those fearing Jehovah he honors”
To be God’s friends and guests, we must fear him. Says Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge.” What is “the fear of Jehovah”? It is reverential awe for God and a wholesome dread of displeasing him. This results in true knowledge, lifesaving discipline, and heavenly wisdom that is a sure guide.
Those fearing Jehovah adhere to his righteous standards even if this results in ridicule. For instance, many scoff when those fearing God work industriously, are honest on the job, or seek to help others spiritually. But how does a godly individual look upon such upright persons? ‘He honors those fearing Jehovah,’ holding them in high esteem, even if this means bearing reproach along with them. Do you have such respect for those fearing God? Citing another requirement for divine favor, the psalmist adds:
“He has sworn to what is bad for himself, and yet he does not alter”
The principle here is that of fulfilling our promises, as God does. (1 Kings 8:56; 2 Corinthians 1:20) Even if we later find that doing what we promised is very difficult, we should not change our mind and renege on our promise. Here the Greek Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta, and Latin Vulgate texts say, “sworn to his neighbor.” If we swear to do something or make a proper vow, we should live up to it. (Ecclesiastes 5:4) Of course, if we learn that something we promised is unscriptural, we should not do it.
Joshua did not break a covenant with the Gibeonites even though he later learned that they had deceived him into making it. (Joshua 9:16-19) So we should be men, women, and young persons who keep our word. Let us not make promises to others and then leave them in the lurch when more appealing opportunities open up to us. Jesus said: “Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.” (Matthew 5:37) Especially should those dedicated to Jehovah be determined to live up to their promise to serve him eternally as his Witnesses. Besides keeping promises, we should be considerate in financial matters, as David shows in the 15th Psalm, verse 5.
“His money he has not given out on interest”
Money lent for business purposes can rightly be repaid with interest. But here David meant ‘giving out money’ to the destitute. The Mosaic Law specified: “If you should lend money to my people, to the afflicted alongside you, you must not become like a usurer to him. You must not lay interest upon him.” (Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35, 36) When Nehemiah found the poor suffering as victims of usurers, he stopped such exploitation.—Nehemiah 5:1-13.
For “interest,” David used a Hebrew word derived from another one signifying “to bite.” This suggests that greedy usurers were devouring the poor and the little that they had. Clearly, it is much better to help the poverty-stricken without expecting any return. Jesus made such a point by saying: “When you spread a dinner or evening meal, . . . invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.” (Luke 14:12-14) A person desiring to be God’s friend and guest would never take undue advantage of his neighbor’s poverty and would comply with what the psalmist goes on to mention.
“And a bribe against the innocent one he has not taken”
A bribe has a corrupting influence. The Israelites were commanded: “You must not . . . accept a bribe, for the bribe blinds the eyes of wise ones and distorts the words of righteous ones.” (Deuteronomy 16:19) It is especially evil to take a bribe to do injury to an “innocent one,” perhaps by changing court testimony. How despicable Judas Iscariot was in accepting a bribe to betray innocent Jesus!—Matthew 26:14-16.
We may consider ourselves faultless in this regard. But have we ever been tempted to buy our way out of an embarrassing situation? The prophet Samuel never accepted “hush money,” or a bribe. (1 Samuel 12:3, 4) All of us must conduct ourselves in that way if we are to be God’s friends and guests.
“He that is doing these things will never be made to totter”
After its tenfold description of an upright person, the 15th Psalm concludes with the foregoing words. They may well make us analyze our religion. If it is the true faith, it should teach us to (1) walk faultlessly and practice righteousness, (2) speak the truth even in the heart, (3) avoid slandering others, and (4) refrain from doing anything bad. Religion acceptable to God will (5) keep us from taking up reproaches against upright acquaintances and will (6) make us avoid association with contemptible persons. The true faith will move us to (7) honor those fearing Jehovah, (8) carry out what we have promised to do if it is proper, (9) give to the impoverished without charging interest, and (10) never take a bribe against an innocent person.
David does not say that anyone reading, hearing, speaking, or even believing these things “will never be made to totter.” This will be the experience only of the individual “that is doing these things.” Faith without works to back it up is dead and does not result in divine approval. (James 2:26) Doers of the good things mentioned in the 15th Psalm will not totter, for Jehovah will protect and uphold them.—Psalm 55:22.
There is, of course, more to pure worship than the ten points mentioned in the 15th Psalm. Jesus’ followers later learned other things about worshiping God “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) So can you, for people who do these things exist today. Regular association with these Witnesses of Jehovah and study of the Bible will build up hope of life in an earthly paradise where you can be God’s guest and friend forever.
*** w89 9/15 pp. 26-30 Who Can Be God’s Friend? ***
(James 2:23) and the scripture was fulfilled that says: “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” and he came to be called Jehovah’s friend.
(Genesis 17:1, 2) When A′bram was 99 years old, Jehovah appeared to A′bram and said to him: “I am God Almighty. Walk before me and prove yourself faultless. 2 I will establish my covenant between me and you, and I will multiply you very, very much.”
(Psalm 1:1) Happy is the man who does not walk according to the advice of the wicked And does not stand on the path of sinners And does not sit in the seat of scoffers.
(3 John 3, 4) For I rejoiced very much when brothers came and bore witness about the truth you hold, as you go on walking in the truth. 4 No greater joy do I have than this: that I should hear that my children go on walking in the truth.
(Matthew 7:21-23) “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of the heavens, but only the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. 22 Many will say to me in that day: ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them: ‘I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!’
(Titus 1:16) They publicly declare that they know God, but they disown him by their works, because they are detestable and disobedient and not approved for good work of any sort.
(Micah 6:8) He has told you, O man, what is good. And what is Jehovah requiring of you? Only to exercise justice, to cherish loyalty, And to walk in modesty with your God!
(1 Timothy 1:5) Really, the objective of this instruction is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.
(Matthew 15:18-20) However, whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and those things defile a man. 19 For example, out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. 20 These are the things that defile a man; but to take a meal with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
(Proverbs 6:16-19) There are six things that Jehovah hates; Yes, seven things that he detests: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart plotting wicked schemes, and feet that run quickly to evil, 19 A false witness who lies with every breath, And anyone sowing contentions among brothers.
(Colossians 3:9, 10) Do not lie to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, 10 and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it,
(Psalm 15:3) He does not slander with his tongue, He does nothing bad to his neighbor, And he does not defame his friends.
(Leviticus 19:16) “‘You must not go around spreading slander among your people. You must not stand up against the life of your fellow man. I am Jehovah.
(1 Timothy 5:13) At the same time they also learn to be unoccupied, going around from one house to another; yes, not only unoccupied but also gossipers and meddlers in other people’s affairs, talking about things they should not.
(Psalm 101:5) Anyone slandering his neighbor in secret, I will silence. Anyone with haughty eyes and an arrogant heart, I will not tolerate.
(Matthew 7:12) “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them. This, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean.
(Psalm 97:10) O you who love Jehovah, hate what is bad. He is guarding the lives of his loyal ones; He rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
(Matthew 5:43-48) “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good and makes it rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? 48 You must accordingly be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Proverbs 17:9) Whoever forgives a transgression seeks love, But the one who keeps harping on a matter separates close friends.
(Leviticus 5:1) “‘If someone sins because he has heard a public call to testify and he is a witness or has seen or learned about it and he does not report it, then he will answer for his error.
(Proverbs 28:13) The one covering over his transgressions will not succeed, But whoever confesses and abandons them will be shown mercy.
(Psalm 15:4) He rejects anyone who is contemptible, But he honors those fearing Jehovah. He does not go back on his promise, even when it is bad for him.
(Jude 16) These men are murmurers, complainers about their lot in life, following their own desires, and their mouths make grandiose boasts, while they are flattering others for their own benefit.
(2 Kings 3:14) To this E·li′sha said: “As surely as Jehovah of armies whom I serve is living, if I did not have regard for King Je·hosh′a·phat of Judah, I would not look at you or take notice of you.
(1 Kings 8:56) “Praised be Jehovah, who has given a resting-place to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word of all his good promise that he made through Moses his servant has failed.
(2 Corinthians 1:20) For no matter how many the promises of God are, they have become “yes” by means of him. Therefore, also through him is the “Amen” said to God, which brings him glory through us.
(Ecclesiastes 5:4) Whenever you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it, for he finds no pleasure in the stupid ones. What you vow, pay.
(Joshua 9:16-19) At the end of three days, after they made a covenant with them, they heard that they lived nearby, in their vicinity. 17 Then the Israelites set out and came to their cities on the third day; their cities were Gib′e·on, Che·phi′rah, Be·er′oth, and Kir′i·ath-je′a·rim. 18 But the Israelites did not attack them, because the chieftains of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by Jehovah the God of Israel. So all the assembly began to murmur against the chieftains. 19 At this all the chieftains said to the entire assembly: “Since we swore an oath to them by Jehovah the God of Israel, we are not allowed to hurt them.
(Psalm 15:5) He does not lend his money on interest, And he does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.
(Exodus 22:25) “If you lend money to anyone poor of my people, someone who is dwelling with you, you must not become like a moneylender to him. You must not charge him interest.
(Leviticus 25:35, 36) “‘If your brother who is nearby becomes poor and cannot support himself, you must sustain him as you would a foreign resident and a settler, so that he may keep alive with you. 36 Do not take interest or make a profit from him. You must be in fear of your God, and your brother will keep alive with you.
(Nehemiah 5:1-13) However, there was a great outcry from the people and their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying: “We are many with our sons and our daughters. We must get grain in order to eat and stay alive.” 3 Others were saying: “We are giving our fields and our vineyards and our houses as security to get grain during the food shortage.” 4 Still others were saying: “We have borrowed money on our fields and our vineyards for the king’s tribute. 5 Now we are of the same flesh and blood as our brothers, and our children are just like their children; yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery, and some of our daughters are already in slavery. But we are powerless to stop this, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” 6 I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 So I considered these things in my heart, and I took issue with the nobles and the deputy rulers and said to them: “Each one of you is demanding interest from your own brother.” Further, I arranged for a great assembly because of them. 8 And I said to them: “To the extent possible, we have bought back our own Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; but will you now sell your own brothers, and are they to be sold back to us?” At this they became speechless, and they could find nothing to say. 9 Then I said: “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God so that the nations, our enemies, cannot reproach us? 10 Moreover, I, my brothers, and my attendants are lending them money and grain. Let us, please, stop this lending on interest. 11 Please, restore to them on this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, as well as the hundredth of the money, the grain, the new wine, and the oil that you are demanding as interest from them.” 12 To this they said: “We will restore these things to them and ask nothing back. We will do precisely as you say.” So I called the priests and made those men swear to keep this promise. 13 Also, I shook out the folds of my garment and said: “In this manner may the true God shake out from his house and from his possessions every man who does not carry out this promise, and in this manner may he be shaken out and emptied.” To this all the congregation said: “Amen!” And they praised Jehovah, and the people did as they promised.
(Luke 14:12-14) Next he said also to the man who had invited him: “When you spread a dinner or an evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors. Otherwise, they might also invite you in return, and it would become a repayment to you. 13 But when you spread a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.”
(Deuteronomy 16:19) You must not pervert justice, show partiality, or accept a bribe, for the bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts the words of the righteous.
(Matthew 26:14-16) Then one of the Twelve, the one called Judas Is·car′i·ot, went to the chief priests 15 and said: “What will you give me to betray him to you?” They stipulated to him 30 silver pieces. 16 So from then on, he kept looking for a good opportunity to betray him.
(1 Samuel 12:3, 4) Here I am. Testify against me before Jehovah and before his anointed one: Whose bull or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded or crushed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me look the other way? If I have, I will restore it to you.” 4 To this they said: “You have not defrauded us or crushed us or accepted anything at all from anyone’s hand.”
(Psalm 55:22) Throw your burden on Jehovah, And he will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to fall.
(John 4:23, 24) Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshippers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth.”