This article looks at the lives of three men - Daniel, William Wilberforce, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer - who displayed the truth of Psalm 15 in their Christian walk.

Source: Faith in Focus, 2013. 3 pages.

Biographical Sketches of a Psalm 15 Man

Men of mature, godly character have lived faithfully in a variety of historical situations. Here are three brief biographical sketches to show us what a Psalm 15 man can look like:

Daniel (7th-6th Century B.C.)🔗

Who may dwell in the sanctuary of the Lord? Psalm 15’s answer, in part, is: he whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous (vs. 2). He must be a man who speaks the truth from his heart (vs. 2), a man who keeps his oath, even when it hurts (vs. 4).

The prophet Daniel was just such a man. Although extremely knowledgea­ble and powerful (1:20; 2:48), Daniel did not succumb to the temptations of political power. He maintained his in­tegrity and refused all forms of corrup­tion. When those who were envious of him tried to find charges against him, they could not: “They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (6:4).

It took great courage to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream truthfully. The dream foretold the eventual downfall of Babylon. But Daniel was neither fearful nor fawning in the king’s presence. He stood up, told the truth, and left the outcome to the Lord (ch.2). When faced with a decree that could lead to his death, Daniel refused to pray to the image of the king. Instead, he con­tinued to pray to the Lord (ch. 6) and when thrown into the lions’ den as a consequence, he continued to trust in God (6:23).

Surely Daniel was a man who, in terms of the characteristics listed in Psalm 15, was entitled to dwell in the sanctu­ary of the Lord.Michael Flinn

William Wilberforce (1759-1833)🔗

William Wilberforce, the British parlia­mentarian and leader of the campaign against slavery, exhibited Psalm 15 quali­ties throughout his long public life. He was a busy and active Member of Parlia­ment, and involved in most of the major Christian causes of his day. His leader­ship of the campaign against slavery was enough by itself to absorb one man’s life; but he achieved far more. Always conscious that he was wasting the op­portunities and abilities God had given him, he strove to increase his efforts. His life was always full – of people, of meet­ings, of letter-writing, of speech-making and much other work. It is amazing, given his uncertain health, that he ac­complished as much as he did.

Wilberforce was a Psalm 15 man per­sonifying the opposites of the negative qualities it describes. His character was so markedly gentle and Christlike that his contemporaries were unanimous in their praise for him. He had a sunny disposi­tion – it was difficult to anger him. He was afraid of giving pain to anybody; and was more eager to disarm his op­ponents by his kindness than to over­power them by his arguments. He had a quick mind and a playful wit – he was such good company that his home was overflowing and he was always in demand as a guest.

He was tremendously loyal to his friends. Always there in any crisis, and one of the first on hand to visit, his gen­erous nature could not do enough to help them. In fact, he kept lists of ways he hoped to help them. This generosity spilled over toward anyone in need; par­ticularly the poor. In his private papers there were accounts of the money he gave to needy families, to ministers for their sons’ education; and to help strug­gling schools survive. Far from lending out his money to extort (v.5), he often loaned without ever expecting the money back.

He certainly “honoured those who fear the Lord”; throwing his support into all kinds of Christian causes in his day. He was involved with the Bible Society and the Church Missionary Society in their early days; and was a firm friend of many groups working to improve the moral standards of English society. He even wrote a best-selling book urging the upper classes (his own people) to rethink their nominal Christianity, to reflect on their sin and need for salvation; and to live upright, serious and committed lives that would honour God. He was a great encourager of those who spent them­selves to promote the gospel – minis­ters, missionaries and friends like Hannah More and her sisters, who worked val­iantly in the Sunday School movement.

Always a man of integrity and politi­cal courage, Wilberforce never held a cabinet position. Thus independent, he was able to speak without fear or favour on any subject that he thought Parliament should hear about. He was regarded by his fellow parliamentarians as persistent, selfless and relentlessly hard-working.

It says a great deal about Wilberforce that his recent biographer, William Hague – who currently serves as Britain’s Foreign Secretary – admires him intensely. Hague does not appear to share Wilberforce’s evangelical faith, but honours Wilber­force’s Christianity, acknowledging it as the great motivation for everything he did.1 He was the rare man who com­bined the graces of Christian character with fearless and persistent commitment to redressing a great wrong.Sally Davey

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)🔗

Psalm 15 says the man who dwells with the Lord is a man “who walks with in­tegrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. He does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbour...” (NASB)

When Lois and I read Eric Metaxas’ biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, we were often struck by his struggle to be a man of integrity. Raised in a well-to-do family who mingled in the highest echelons of German society, Bonhoeffer was fully aware of the inner workings of the German government. Following the takeover by the Nazis, he had an insider’s knowledge of what was happening as Hitler tightened his grip on German society.

As a man who sought in obedience to Scripture to honour God, build up the church, and promote justice in his nation, his inside knowledge caused him a greater ethical struggle than it did most Germans, who were either less informed of the Nazi programme or who had little concern to be faithful to Scripture.

Early on he took a firm and public stand against the racist policy Hitler imposed on the German (Lutheran State) Church. He did so not only because he had close friends and relatives by marriage who were Jews but because he was convinced from Scripture that such racism was a denial of the Gospel. He had no hesitation in taking this stand since it did not directly put anyone in danger but himself.

However, as the war progressed and Hitler needed more and more fighting men, he struggled with the question of whether it was right for him to serve in the military. He was fully aware of the terrible atrocities committed by the mili­tary against Jews and other helpless ci­vilians in conquered countries. Generals ordered their subordinates to slaughter thousands. Bonhoeffer was convinced that he personally could not be party to such cruelty and bloodshed; regardless of the cost, he would refuse.

Out of genuine concern to uphold truth he concluded that he must use his gifts in the fight against the evil of Nazism. With the help of relatives who had high office in the military he was employed by the Abwehr, a branch of the military engaged in intelligence gathering. Under that guise he actually worked as part of the resistance, travel­ling abroad and secretly informing the British and their allies of Hitler’s activities and of the resistance movement within the German military. Continuing as a pastor (his cover while working for the Abwehr) enabled him to keep challeng­ing the Confessing Church to be faithful to Scripture and to encourage younger pastors and men who were training for the ministry.

Bonhoeffer was a man who genuinely sought to help and comfort those around him, who also sought to build up and strengthen the church by continually challenging it to be faithful to Scripture, and who personally sought to undermine the evil rulers of his beloved Germany.

On April 5, 1943, three months after his engagement to Maria von Wede­meyer, Bonhoeffer was arrested under suspicion that he had been involved in the resistance movement against Hitler (which was true though they had no evi­dence). For many months he deceived his interrogator about his involvement, not because he feared for his own life, that was a matter he had resolved many years before. No, his deception was to avoid putting the lives of others at risk. His selflessness showed also in his con­stant efforts over the next two years to help those in prison around him, en­couraging them from Scripture, helping physically when he could, even remain­ing in a dreary cell when he had op­portunity to be moved to a better one, in order that someone else would not have to endure life in such a cell.

On April 8, 1945, the Sunday after Easter, Bonhoeffer had the opportunity of conducting a worship service for a small gathering of prisoners in a schoolroom in the Bavarian village of Schönberg which was their cell. Then he was taken to Flossenbürg where he was hanged the next morning at Hitler’s orders, just three weeks before Hitler committed suicide and the war in Germany ended.

Thus did Bonhoeffer seek to be a Psalm 15 man as he struggled with some of the most difficult ethical issues a Chris­tian could face. Though he died nearly 70 years ago, his blood still speaks.Bruce and Lois Hoyt


  1. ^ William Hague, William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner (Harper Press, 2007).

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