# 105 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 24 Worship the King of Glory.

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The Eastern Gates, Jerusalem, Israel.

Most of us don’t live in palaces or fortresses. Few of us are surrounded by huge stone walls with sentries standing on lookout for enemies. And most of our visitors don’t stand outside our formidable gates or “ancient doors” seeking to come inside. But, such was the way in the days of the psalmist who wrote Psalm 24. He says:

7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

All that has happened so far in this psalm has been leading up to this mighty climax, most probably, the entrance of a victorious army carrying the Ark of the Covenant, signifying the presence of the “Lord Almighty…the King of glory” into Jerusalem, the City of David.

Of course, as Blaiklock suggests, although the “Ark was a sign of God’s presence…David was clearly anxious that neither Ark nor hill should be considered the dwelling place of deity – like some tribal god, confined…to a narrow house. The Ark was no more than a symbol…Hence the stress [in verse 1] on the Lord’s work as Creator.”

And so, what follows is this interesting dialogue between those on the inside and those wanting to gain entrance.

Blaiklock describes the scene:
“…the gates of the old fortress of Zion are in view and dramatically the cry arises for their opening. ‘Gates, raise your arches, rise, you ancient doors,’ the Jerusalem Bible renders it, as though the very walls should open and the great wooden leaves swing back of their own accord before such a demonstration. God is coming in, throned in a multitude of hearts, as the glorious King.
‘Who is He?’ cries the single voice, dramatizing the watchman who demands name and password. The words and the answer are repeated. In the midst of the pageantry it must have been a thrilling moment…The Lord of Hosts, ‘the Commander of all heaven’s armies’ (LB), is demanding admittance.” (see references # 37)

The psalm doesn’t tell us, but I’m pretty sure that the gates were opened, and with great enthusiasm and awesome worship of the One described in this psalm as:
Creator: The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
Holy: Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?
Saviour: They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Saviour.
God of history: Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
King of Glory: Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
The Lord, strong and mighty in battle: Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

So, how does this apply to us, as Christians, in 2017? Maybe the architecture has changed but little else about the state of mankind, and the sort of ‘spiritual warfare’ type activities happening in our world. If you live in the Korean Peninsula region of the world, there is the very real threat of nuclear war. If you live in the Middle East there are the ongoing wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. If you live in South America there is political unrest and strife happening in a number of countries. Then there is tension in Africa and terrorism in Europe. In Australia the pressures are different – with questions of same-sex marriage and other vital lifestyle issues being pressed for by certain minority groups.
No less than in David’s day, we need to be clear in our understanding of who the real enemy is, and Who is on our side. We need to remember that it is the LORD who created and owns this earth we live on is for us. He is sovereign over all the nations of the earth. We need to remember that He alone is Holy and Just and will work out his purposes throughout the nations. That he is the One and Only Saviour of the world, the one who came to save and not to condemn and so this is the message we proclaim. That he is the God of history, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and we are living in His-Story here and now. And that as messed up as our world is and as strong as the forces of evil may appear, our God is the King of Glory, strong and mighty in battle. Victory is ultimately His.

Whether we like to admit it or not, as Longman says, “Christians too are engaged in warfare [see Ephesians 6:12]. Psalm 24 encourages [us] that [our] God continues to fight for [us] in the midst of the turmoil of life. [We] also wait in hope for the future reappearance of [our] Warrior, Jesus Christ, who will bring all evil, human and spiritual, to an end.” (see references # 30)

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)

Father, just as Elisha prayed, we ask, ’Open [our] eyes, Lord, so that [we] may see.’ Then , as you did then, ‘the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha,’ so may we see your world as you see it,  and live accordingly.  (2 Kings 6:17) Amen.    

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

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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.    

# 103 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 24. The universe looks as if it knew we were coming!

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From a scene of “green pastures”, “quiet waters” and “valleys” in the previous psalm, we move now to “the mountain of the Lord” and a city with “gates” and “ancient doors” in Psalm 24. David, the shepherd boy tending his sheep in the pasturelands of Israel has become David, the King of Israel and has conquered Jerusalem where God, the “Shepherd” is now welcomed, acknowledged as Creator and referred to as “the Lord…the King of Glory…the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle…the Lord Almighty.”

Psalm 24

Of David. A psalm.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,     the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas     and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?     Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,     who does not trust in an idol     or swear by a false god.

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

Lift up your heads, you gates;     be lifted up, you ancient doors,     that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory?     The Lord strong and mighty,     the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates;     lift them up, you ancient doors,     that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is he, this King of glory?     The Lord Almighty—     he is the King of glory.

Just as Psalm 23 had its context as mentioned above, so does Psalm 24. Many commentaries suggest that this psalm could have been written for the occasion when the victorious Israelite army was returning to Jerusalem after fighting against an enemy. “Thus, the psalm praises God the Warrior who has given his people victory over their enemy.” (Longman) More specifically, some suggest that the story of David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6) could have been the context for this psalm.

Whatever the context it has lots to teach us even from the very first words:

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,     the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas     and established it on the waters.

As Longman says, “The psalmist begins with a hearty affirmation that everything animate and inanimate, belongs to the Lord. He owns everything and everyone, and everything and everyone are completely dependent on him…He has authority over all.”  (see references # 30)

As Genesis 1 says:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…vegetation…trees…sea creatures…birds…wild animals…livestock…man and woman.”

Then John in his Gospel adds:

“Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made.” (1:3)

Having spent some time recently talking to a friend, who calls himself a “skeptic”, I realize that it takes quite a bit of “faith” on his part to “believe” what he says concerning the world around him and what life is (or isn’t) all about. Frankly, just believing in God as Creator, the  Giver and Sustainer of life is not as complex as some of the things my friend “believes”! And certainly, as we consider the peoples of the world around us, he is really in a small minority who reject the reality of the supernatural and of God.

In his book, “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller, the author has a chapter titled “The Clues of God”. In this chapter he writes, among other things, concerning the “Big Bang Theory”, which he terms the “mysterious bang”, and then quotes scientist Francis Collins:

“We have this very solid conclusion that the universe had an origin, the Big Bang. Fifteen billion years ago, the universe began with an unimaginable bright flash of energy from an infinitesimally small point. That implies that before that, there was nothing. I can’t imagine how nature, in this case the universe, would have created itself. And the very fact that the universe had a beginning implies that someone was able to begin it. And it seems to me that had to be outside of nature.”

Keller then goes on to mention yet another fascinating fact about the universe which he calls the “cosmic welcome mat”. He writes concerning the “perfect calibration” of the universe, of “values that together fall into an extremely narrow range”. He concludes that “the probability of this perfect calibration happening by chance is so tiny as to be statistically negligible.” He follows this by another quote by Francis Collins:

“When you look from the perspective of a scientist at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming. There are 15 constants…that have precise values. If any one of these constants were off by even one part in a million, or in some cases, one part in a million million, the universe could not have actually come to the point where we see it. Matter would not have been able to coalesce [combine], there would have been no galaxy, stars, planets or people.”

And then Keller writes concerning the “regularity of nature”:

“As a proof for the existence of God, the regularity of nature is inescapable…There have been many scholars in the last decades who have argued that modern science arose in its most sustained form out of Christian civilization because of its belief in an all-powerful God who created and sustains an orderly universe.”

(Timothy Keller The Reason for God – Belief in an Age of Scepticism Hodder & Stoughton 2008)

Creator God, what an amazing universe we live in, and it all belongs to you. May we live our daily lives in the knowledge of this truth seeking to bring glory to you. Thank you that you also created us for yourself. May we make the purpose and passion of our lives all about knowing, serving and delighting in you and all that you have made. Amen.