# 104 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 24 Who may stand before the Lord?

Life is full of questions and often there isn’t always an easy answer. If you have children or grandchildren, like me, then this will certainly have been your experience. But questions and answers are an important part of the growing and learning process. And so often in life we are in situations when we are just unfamiliar with what and how to move forward. On these occasions, we need some answers.

Well, the psalmist, in Psalm 24, having acknowledged the awesomeness of God the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe in verses 1-2, asked a very relevant question:

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?

He is basically asking, if God is as awesome, powerful and holy as we know him to be, then how on earth can we come into his presence, considering our lack of all the above characteristics. Good question!

I think it is helpful here to look at the context of this psalm again before we consider this vital question and answer.

The psalm seems to be describing a victory celebration and the people of God, those who have experienced God’s victory, are together, initially outside the place of worship and are about to enter in to worship and give thanks to “the King of Glory, the Lord Almighty.” And someone (possibly a Levite) asks the question concerning “Who” are those who are ready and able to enter and worship the Lord, i.e. what are the characteristics of the ones who can honestly and earnestly and truthfully worship God in a way that is acceptable to Him?

And the answer comes back:
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

Broyles suggests concerning the above answer that they are a:

“priestly instruction or ‘torah’ [which contain] two positive descriptions of character, the first related to behaviour (he who has clean hands) and the second to thoughts and motives (and a pure heart). These are matched by two negative descriptions of action (who does not lift up his soul to what is empty and does not swear to falsehood).”

He continues:

“These qualifications for entering the temple are not meant to be an exhaustive checklist, but they are a teaching that makes clear what is essential…Yahweh’s adherents are people of integrity, that is, they are loyal to truth and integrate themselves around it. They are loyal to God and have no intention of harming or misleading their neighbour.”

Jesus said something similar to the Samaritan women at the well when he said: “the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” are “the true worshipers” who “worship the Father in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23).

I guess it is a call to search one’s own heart before God before participating in public worship, which sounds like a pretty useful thing to do, lest we find ourselves being hypocrites.

As another prayer psalm puts it:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.     (Psalm 139:23-24)

So, there has been firstly an inquiry (v.3), then the conditions (v.4) and now thirdly comes a promise (vv. 5-6).

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication [or righteousness] from God their Saviour.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

It is important to note a couple of things here. Firstly, considering all the rituals and sacrifices involved in Judaism, it is significant that God does not make the fulfilling of these things the condition for entry, but rather he examines the hearts and motivations that produce right actions. And secondly, the expectation is not that only the perfect people are able to join in worship, because obviously then no one would be able to enter.

In fact, those able to enter are simply called ‘seekers’ i.e. those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Broyle suggests that verse 5 would be better translated, he will receive righteousness. He continues: “The psalm is clear that the person so described in verse 4 is in need of a Saviour and in need of righteousness…In other words, one must not claim moral perfection before one can consider entering. On the contrary, to receive this righteousness from God his Saviour one must enter into worship. Upon entry worshipers were granted righteousness and became one of the righteous.”   (see references # 4)

Wilcock adds:

“To meet God…required right living, right thinking, a right relationship with him, and a right relationship with one’s fellows. But these things were a righteousness (vindication) which could only be received, not achieved: things which the God who saves from sin gives to those who seek him. That ‘seeking’, that humble longing for God, was the basic requirement for those who would come to meet with him…” (see references # 5)

I was reminded of this when reading Acts 15 this week. The story is of Paul and Barnabas returning to Jerusalem after their evangelistic journeys, having seen not only Jews but also Gentiles becoming believers in Jesus. But, “some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” were saying that “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses” (15:9), which Paul and Barnabas did not agree with and therefore brought it before the Jerusalem Council for clarification. The answer to this big question was answered by Peter and these are the words that reminded me of the words of Psalm 24.

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”  (Acts 15:6-11)

History and our own experience proves that God desires worshipers, people who recognise that he is the One True God who created all things, including humans in his image. He also desires to transform us so that when we come to Him in worship we will be “righteous”, with clean hands and a pure heart. And as Peter says, all this is through the grace of our Lord Jesus, i.e. not our own doing!

Paul also speaks of this in Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

So, this day Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.    

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