The King of Glory (Psalm 24)Series: Psalms (Worshipping God)
If you want to know what a church believes, we might think that we should just listen to the sermons to find out. But, it has been stated that this is not a very accurate gauge of what the community believes; rather, we need to listen to the songs that are sung - then we will really know the heart of the church. Whether right or wrong, songs have a powerful way of speaking truth into the deepest parts of our hearts, and that power should be wielded with great respect.
As I have studied Psalm 24 lately, I have been wondering what this church would look like if the whole community here sang this Psalm and all truly embraced its vision of God, his people, and his city? I believe it would cause us to have an exalted view of God. I believe this exalted view of God would wake many of us up - as it has me - to the holiness required to ascend God's holy hill. I believe it would cause many of us to treat him less casually. I believe it would cause some to realize that their high view of themselves and their low view of God is not welcome here. I believe it would cause this community to become a true sanctuary of humility, of holiness, and of joy in our Lord. But, that would only be true if we all really deeply believed this Psalm. So, let's look at this Psalm and consider the ultimate upshots of singing and believing a Psalm like this. Notice Psalm 24:1-6
Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord? (vs. 1-6)
David starts this Psalm by proclaiming that the earth and everyone and everything in it belongs to the Lord - Yahweh. Why? Because he made it all. And when everything was covered by dark, chaotic waters, he lifted the dry land out of the water and made the earth to rest upon these same waters. Now, we are told that this very same God has a hill, a place where he dwells and works from. In the days of the Old Covenant, it was Jerusalem. For us, it is the New Jerusalem that will one day come out of heaven. Now, imagine this great God - the LORD - who created, founded, and owns every person and everything. He dwells atop this great hill at a holy place. And every time we see this place in its full, final form in Scripture (Ezekiel 40-47, Rev. 21-22), this place is amazing. It is full of beauty, purity, peace, life, and joy. Best of all, the Lord is there. The question David asks in this Psalm is this: who do you think can make the trek up that hill to the Lord’s holy place?
Now stop. The fact that this Psalm doesn't end right here and instead actually gives an answer should be amazing to us. Who is going to ascend that hill? No one! We cannot go up God's hill to God's city to God's house. And yet, there is a generation, a group, a circle who is allowed: "He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully." Esther feared that she would be killed when she went into the presence of the king, yet she was given permission. Similarly, it is this person who God will bless and allow. It is this person who will receive the declaration of righteousness and innocence — permission from the king to enter. If I am reading this right, I love the way that is worded. It isn't: the person has always met these qualifications will enter. It is: the person who currently meets them will receive the blessing, will be declared guilt-free and given permission to ascend.
So, let's ask the questions of ourselves a few questions. Are our hands clean? Are our hearts pure? Do we lift ourselves up to what is false? This is a picture of idolatry. Many gods make false promises: money, power, sex, popularity. Do we give ourselves up to these gods? Do we swear deceitfully? Do we make promises we don't intend to keep? Do we say things in ways to give people a false impression of who we are?
Imagine we were called to make that trek up the Lord's holy hill today. Do we fit in the group going up? Is there anything on our hands or in our hearts that would prevent us from ascending? If so, why don't you fix that? Could anything be more important? Confess it to a brother or sister. Make it right and clean your hands now! We must fix this now, because, in reality, the Hebrew writer says that we are supposed to consider ourselves as at that city, the heavenly Jerusalem right now. Ho, we don't yet have every sense of the promise-the heavenly Jerusalem hasn't come down out of heaven yet-but we are supposed to envision ourselves as already at its gates.
Thank the LORD for his mercy. If we turn, he forgives and gives us the blessing to ascend.
Let the King of Glory Come in (vs. 7-10)
A complete shift of focus happens in the rest of this Psalm. Before, he encouraged the congregation to consider if they were worthy to ascend the hill of Yahweh, but now he encourages Jerusalem, the holy city to welcome the King of Glory into their gates. Notice verses 7-10.
Some think that the event that occasioned David's writing of this Psalm is when David had the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem. You can see why this makes sense. The first time they tried to bring it, wrath from the Lord struck Uzzah down because they did not handle it properly. But the second time they did it right. Everyone was there and full of rejoicing. There was shouting, singing, and dancing as the Levites played loud music to welcome the king of Glory 'into the city.
I believe that is the first key upshot of this section: to stir the community, the city to open their gates and welcome their king in. Would the king of glory be welcome in our community? That sounds like an easy question, but I assure you-with what many churches become - it isn't that simple. Would we really welcome the king of glory here?
Jerusalem thought they would. Jerusalem was built and designed and prepared for this one task; and, yet, that city chewed up and spat out every prophet that came in the king's name, and they even killed the king himself. They liked the idea of the king's return, but they never liked the reforms he brought.
Really rest on this question: would we welcome him? If he came in looking like a man named John Doe and placed membership here, as we got to know him, would we recognize him? Would we see the difference? Would we like the difference? Would we have eyes and ears enough to as John and me to permanently step down so we could hear him preach?
I hope we can see that we are nothing if we would not welcome him fully. We aren't a nice place or a sweet community. Is this a Yahweh-centered community that wants nothing more than to be a city built completely around-not around what our flesh wants, not around riches, not around entertainment - but around the king of Glory? If that's our aim in all we do - to be a community that would welcome him - we are on the right track! If that isn't what we want for ourselves or this community, not even what we want to learn, let me encourage you: whether you are 177 or 70, please know you are not welcome here.
I believe the second thing this section is meant to accomplish is to stir the city, the community to see that the King of Glory is the LORD of Hosts. "The LORD of Hosts" or “Yahweh of Armies.” You know, I don't think about God much with that picture - he is Yahweh who commands heavenly host upon host, army upon army. He is a powerful commander who is strong and mighty in battle. And when he comes into a city, his entourage, his armies accompany him. David is saying," HE is the king of glory!"
Did you catch that? King David says "the King of Glory is Yahweh of Armies." Imagine living in a city, a country, a political atmosphere where the human king actually urged the nation to this realization. When successes are accomplished and battles won, the king comes back to the jubilant city and then he "turns around with the rest of the city to chant, The LORD of Hosts - not I - he is the king of Glory!" It is our hope to live in a city, a Kingdom on a mountain with a government like that where the king and God rule as one with no conflict. Jesus is preparing a place for us in the temple of that city - the Father's house - right now.
But who is worthy to ascend such a hill to such a city to such a God? Those whose hands are clean and heart is pure; those who don't lift themselves up to false gods or deceive others themselves. Does something stand before us and that trek up God's holy hill today?
This Psalm began by declaring that the earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord. Maybe the secret to becoming the person who can ascend starts with the humility that comes from recognizing whose hill we are ascending. Everything we see, everything we have, every person we come in contact with and tree we eat fruit from is HIS. May we live with humility that recognizes the grandeur and generosity of our king of Glory. If we do, we are assured: we will receive permission to ascend.