In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, mankind is oblivious to the sovereignty of the divine King of kings. The world, and its problems, seems to continually turn with no answers to the dilemmas. In response to these seemingly unanswerable problems, man has turned inward. The attitude thus manifested is one of self-indulgence and the thought that the end of everything is one’s self. In the United States, especially, we are saturated with the thought of narcissism – the love of one’s self. The design, plans and thoughts of our society epitomize this concept.
No nation, people or individual can survive with this rationale. Ultimately, judgment will come from a sovereign God to a self-centered people. Typical of this truth is the ancient nation of Babylon. Resplendent in her glory, Babylon was a nation known for its architecture, education, power, wealth and beauty. It was probably the greatest city in the world. Isaiah, prophesying about the judgment to come upon Babylon, brings one thought – I am an end in myself – to the forefront as the reason behind that judgment:
. . . thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee . . . (Isa. 47:10-11).
The world today is heading in that same direction. We have forgotten the divine law to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourself. Our society is incessant in its pursuit of self-gratification. From the opulence of the entertainment industry – sports, theater, movies, etc. – to the permissive mores of our sexually indulgent society, to the drug-dependent nation that we have become, man’s endless pursuit is to “. . . take thine ease. Eat, drink, and be merry” (Lk. 12:19).
In a civilization preoccupied with itself, as basically all have been since the fall of man, Psalm 24 gives a clarion call to the hearts and minds of all men. Possibly of all the Messianic Psalms, this one stands out in majesty and splendor, sovereignty and grace, divine rule and ownership of all. This seal of ownership is indelibly stamped upon all of God’s creation.
The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they who dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods (vv. 1-2).
An inventor has exclusive ownership over his invention; a designer has exclusive ownership over his design; a builder has exclusive ownership over his building; the Creator has exclusive ownership over His creation. At best, we are unprofitable stewards of the abundance and riches of God.
It is the height of folly for man to think he is an end in himself. The ground we walk on, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the air we breathe are gifts from the Owner of all things. The continual cry of the prophets is the necessity of submission of all things to the sovereign God of the universe, who owns all things.
“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts” (Hag. 2:8).
“. . . every beast of the forest is mine . . .” (Ps. 50:10).
“. . . for the land is mine. . .” (Lev. 25:23).
“Behold, all souls are mine. . .” (Ezek. 18:4).
“. . . For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chr. 29:14).
It is by the grace of God that we live. If we are wealthy, it is because God has enabled us (Dt. 8:17-18); our physical makeup has been fashioned by Him (Ps. 139:13-16); the food we eat is provided by Him (Ps. 104:14). The one vital necessity of man is to recognize his Creator, and yet, “Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names” (Ps. 49:11).
In the very beginning of this illustrious Psalm, the psalmist proclaims the eternal truth of the sovereign God. In Romans 11:36 this truth is driven home: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things . . . .” The initial declaration of this Messianic Psalm is God’s claim not only on the material goods that make up your life or your loved ones who bring you joy, but your very life itself.
The stamp of God’s ownership on us by creation does not guarantee man of eternal salvation. Although all things, including man, belong to God by creation, not all men will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6). In verses three through six, the psalmist deals not only with the question of who will dwell with God but proceeds to answer it also:
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He who hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them who seek him, who seek thy face, O Jacob.
The people of any age, any generation, who seek the Lord will find Him. The initial qualification for the Kingdom of God is a thirsting after righteousness; a desire to know Him; a compulsion to find Him; a longing for the God of Israel. Replete throughout the Scriptures is the promise to a searching and seeking heart:
“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come. . .” (Isa. 55:1).
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
“But if from there thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Dt. 4:29).
To those who thirst, to those who seek, to those who call, to those who come is the promise of God of clean hands and a pure heart in His sight.
As man comes closer to a knowledge and understanding of a holy God, he is more and more confronted with his own filthiness and uncleanness in the sight of God. The nearer one comes to a righteous God, the more unrighteous one becomes in his own eyes. It is this dichotomy between God and man that comes to the forefront. David recognized this when he said, “. . . I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). When Isaiah saw the glory of a holy God he cried out, “. . . Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips. . .” (Isa. 6:5). In Jesus’ parable of a self-righteous man and a humble publican, in Luke 18, it was the publican who was justified as he called out, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (v. 13). When we recognize that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6), that we are helpless and hopeless before a perfectly holy God, that a great guIf of sin separates us from God, it is then that God can impart to us clean hands and a pure heart.
It is that person who receives the salvation of God. He shall receive the blessing of God. To him shall be imputed the righteousness of God, the righteousness of salvation that is only from God.
The message of the prophets is that it is the Messiah who brings salvation. It is in the Lord that we have righteousness (Isa. 45:24): the Messiah will be called “. . . THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer. 23: 6); “For Christ [Messiah] is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). It is Jesus who is the embodiment of the righteousness of God. He paid our sin penalty, being Himself righteous, that we might have the needed perfection through Him to stand in the Lord’s holy place.
For millennia Israel has longed for her promised King. The detailed promises of a literal, earthly kingdom throughout the pages of the Bible long for the Ruler of that kingdom to come and establish it. The psalmist closes this Psalm with an exhortation to the people of Israel to receive their King, and a proclamation of the coming King, the Lord of hosts.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory (vv. 7-10).
The imagery of the gates and everlasting doors is obvious. It is a plea to the people of the Bible, the Jews, to receive their King. To a people with an everlasting covenant from a faithful God are given the command to open their hearts and lives, and the King will come in.
It was David himself who received the promise that the Messiah, the King, would come through his family:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isa. 9:6-7).
The Son of David would sit on the throne of David and rule the Kingdom. It is David who pleads with the people to open the gates. The portrait painted (closed doors and gates) is one of a nation that needs to recognize and accept her Messiah. The truth of this depiction is seen when one reads a few of the Messianic passages of the Old Testament.
He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:3-6).
“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself. . .” (Dan. 9:26).
As prophesied, the Messiah came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and was rejected by the nation of Israel as a whole. It is His longing that the nation of Israel receive Him as their promised Messiah and King. It is only then, when the people of Israel open up their doors and gates, that He will enter.
In prophetic anticipation, the Hebrew prophet Zechariah speaks of that day when “. . . they [Israel] shall look upon me [Christ] whom they have pierced. . .” (Zech. 12:10). Jesus, as He wept, proclaimed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:37-39).
The long-awaited King, the Messiah, will finally have come. As the nation of Israel receives her Messiah, they recognize who this King of glory is. The King is Jehovah, the Commander of the heavenly armies – He has come and delivered them in battle from the nations of the world (Zech. 14:1-3) and will now set up His Kingdom. It is at this time that the people of Israel recognize the Messiah as the “. . . King of Israel, even the Lord, [who] is in the midst of thee . . . ” (Zeph. 3:15).
The grandeur of the Kingdom will finally have arrived. Jesus the Messiah, King, Jehovah God, will have come to set up His Kingdom. Israel, as the beauty of this Messianic Psalm portrays, will receive her rightful Sovereign and King. Their hands will be clean and their hearts pure, as they enter into the presence of the Lord.