“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your holy hill?
He who walks uprightly,
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart.” (emphasis mine)
I love what appears to be driving these questions posed to God by the psalmist. Essentially, isn’t he asking, “What kind of qualities do you seek in Your closest friends, God? What do you desire?” And from the get-go, it is clear that God desires three things in those who want to be close to Him: walking uprightly, working righteousness and speaking truth in their hearts. While I want to reflect on all three, there’s something about the third quality that stood out to me. Perhaps because it is a quality I can, in one breath, excel in, and in the next breath, take a sharp nosedive.
There are a few different postures toward truth that we can take. There are those who deliberately shut themselves from it, as if hiding in a little insulated closet. “I don’t want to know,” they’ll probably admit outright. Similar to this posture, there are those who, perhaps less intentionally, settle into an “ignorance is bliss” position in life. They aren’t necessarily hiding in the closet, they simply avoid any path that may lead to unpleasant exposure to truth. Then there are those that walk about in life looking pretty open to truth, but when confronted with something unpleasant, choose to shut their eyes and keep walking. And finally, there are those that keep their eyes open at all times, not shielding their gaze from the unpleasant or uncomfortable. Depending on the issue facing us and how it interacts with our own personal issues, most of us probably shift between all four of these positions at different times, though settling more easily in one or two of the postures.
I’d like to think, overall, that I’m a seeker of truth. At times, I fearlessly pursue knowledge, often to the point of discomfort, in order to more fully understand an issue. I desire to be knowledgeable enough to make intelligent, informed, and responsible (morally/spiritually, ethically, socially, financially) decisions. The pursuit of truth often charges me.
However, I can also be sadly disinterested when it comes to hearing truth, if it threatens to overwhelm me at an inconvenient time. I can care about one “issue” (for lack of a better generalization, but also encompassing the suffering of an individual or group of individuals), while sticking my fingers in my ears and humming a tune to drown out the voice of truth regarding another “issue.” I’m more inconsistent than I’d care to admit.
But there’s another kind of truth-telling. And it’s hinted at in this verse - the type of truth-telling that originates in the heart, not out of the mouth, though they are certainly not separate from each other. What is in the heart eventually comes out of the mouth, which may be why God included that little detail in this verse. Seeking truth, speaking truth and living truth begin with what is spoken in the heart.
Think about it. What I believe about myself, about God, about others - the dialogue I have in my heart - controls what comes out of my mouth. How can I walk uprightly and work righteously if I am not first seeking truth and speaking it in my heart? I think God, in His complete knowledge of us and His understanding of how we struggle with our inner dialogue on a daily basis, may be throwing in a reminder to check our source when it comes to truth. Where is the source of what I call “truth” coming from?
And when it comes to pursuing truth, am I hiding away in a closet, avoiding interaction, closing my eyes to the unpleasant, shutting my ears to its intrusion, or welcoming it with eyes wide open?