People tend to view the earth as their personal domain and playground. Psalm 24 assures us that this is not the case. Its opening sentence affirms Jehovah’s ownership, saying “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.” He not only “owns the cattle on a thousand hills,” He also possesses everything else around the globe. This psalm speaks of His total sovereignty over mankind and planet Earth. It is His by creation (v.2) and redemption (implied in vv.7-10). Happily, the psalm reveals the secret of the eventual restoration of the earth that man has so marred through sin. It will one day flourish under the benevolent and powerful rule of the Messiah-King.
The Centrality of Jerusalem in World Affairs
Global hegemony will one day be based in Jerusalem (Isa. 2:1-4). Many tyrants have conquered this great city in their quest for wider spheres of power. Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Titus, and the Muslim Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab all added this “city of peace” to their respective imperial holdings. Total world domination eluded these despots; as it also escaped their Crusader, Mamluk, and Ottoman successors. Although each of them enjoyed control of Jerusalem, the great King has yet to take His rightful capital (Ps. 48:2). His first coming to earth culminated in His rejection and crucifixion outside of Jerusalem. Rather than ruling, He humbly submitted to death in order to defeat it. At His second coming, Messiah will enter the city triumphantly, and ascend the throne of His millennial glory, just as Psalm 24 describes.
In addition to prophetically discussing the future coronation of Messiah, the psalm presents to the reader the holy standards that govern entrance to the Lord’s holy place: “He that hath blameless hands and a pure heart; who lifteth not up his soul unto vanity, nor sweareth deceitfully” (v.4, JND). To come into God’s presence one must have pure hands – in contrast to the hands that shed innocent blood, for example (Prov. 6:17). Secondly, a pure heart is required – as distinguished from a heart that devises wicked plans (Prov. 12:2). The Lord Jesus pronounced a blessing on “the pure in heart,” declaring that “they shall see God” (Mt. 5:8). The last two phrases of the verse tell the worshiper that he must be free of idolatry and spiritual falsehood. The worshiper who comes into the Lord’s presence in the prescribed manner is promised “blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Ps. 24:5). Truly, it is a blessing to approach the Lord in humility, receiving the righteousness of God that only the justifying work of Christ provides. Through His shed blood one may enter into God’s presence, blessed, righteous, and holy.
The Prerequisites for Contemporary Worship
The modern worshiper would do well to apply these standards to his adoration of God. Ask yourself, have I been declared righteous through Christ’s saving work? Do my works conform to the Lord’s holiness? Or are my hands tainted by defiled activities? Is my heart focused on the Lord and His perfect will? Or do I have idols within that rob the Almighty
of His due glory? First, one must be purified in salvation by the blood of Christ, thereby receiving the new birth. Afterwards, the Christian must repeatedly be purified from the spiritual filth that is daily encountered in this world. Hence, we must come to the great high priest, the Lord Jesus, for cleansing from the defilement that is incurred along life’s pathway (Jn. 13:8,10; 1 Jn. 1:9). The believer must lift up holy hands in praying to the Lord (1 Tim. 2:8). Before remembering Him in the Lord’s supper, there must be careful self-examination to make sure that one is not doing it in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11:28). In short, there is no place for flippancy, irreverence, idolatry, or unconfessed sin in one’s approach to God.
Accepted and Defended by the Holy One
In keeping with His holy standards, God’s grace in receiving sinners is displayed in verse 6. The American Standard Version (1901) translates it “This is the generation of them that seek after him, that seek thy face, even Jacob.” The worshipers who seek God’s face are the ones designated by the name Jacob. Of course, this is the name that is associated with trickery and failure. It emphasizes the weakness of the patriarch before he received the divinely given moniker, Israel: “a prince with God.” It is to his equally weak and unworthy descendents that the psalm is addressed. Coming out of the sorrows of the Great Tribulation, Israel’s future remnant will lack human strength; thus they will seek the Almighty’s face. As Zechariah 12:8 says: “In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem…” Chapter 14 adds: “And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west… And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one” (vv. 4,9). Though unworthy, they will seek the Lord’s face, and find Him to be a God of grace.
The Coronation of the Great King
Psalm 24:7-10 details a conversation between the personified gates of Jerusalem and the approaching Messiah-King (or perhaps between the sentries at the gates and the conquering Christ.) The gates are commanded to lift up, permitting entry, but also giving a salute of sorts. These eternal doors must open at the coming of this Victor. Jerusalem saw His seeming defeat; it will one day witness His vindication. He went out in shame, labeled a transgressor, blasphemer, and a deceiver. In that day He will be acclaimed as the King of glory. “Who is He?,” they exclaim. “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle…The Lord of hosts,” is the response (vv. 8,10). He is an overcomer, and through Him believers are made more than conquerors and overcomers too (Rom. 8:37; 1 Jn. 5:4-5; Rev. 3:21). He will return in triumphant glory, having vanquished all of His enemies, including sin, death, and hell. No mocking voices will be heard, and no one will oppose Him. The truth about Jesus will finally be recognized: He is King of Kings and Lord of lords.
The Prince of Peace will enter His city, and reign over the earth in righteousness. Under His rule, the earth will blossom, and the knowledge of God will cover the globe. What a privilege the believer has now to acclaim Him as their Lord and Sovereign in the scene of
His rejection. The world will one day be compelled to acknowledge His excellence. Many people bar Christ’s entry to their lives, preferring to remain on their heart’s throne. Others deny His reality, asserting that He has no right to control world affairs. Nevertheless, Christians voluntarily bow to the Lord Jesus, and joyously proclaim His worth. They worship Him, and willingly speak of His beauty. Just as He will one day be welcomed into Jerusalem, they welcome into their homes and churches as their Lord and Master. How wonderful it is to know that His rule will stretch over the earth and the rest of the universe. As Montgomery’s hymn poetically declares it:
Kings shall fall down before Him, And gold and incense bring; All nations shall adore Him, His praise all people sing, Outstretched His wide dominion O’er river, sea, and shore, Far as the eagle’s pinion, Or dove’s light wing can soar.
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