Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Psalms 24 and 15

In recent years the church has been rediscovering a neglected truth. God loves everybody. God welcomes everybody. Not just Christians or even religious people. Jesus went out of his way to welcome people with problems. Tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus. Unsavoury characters like the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery. In his most famous parable Jesus teaches us about the love which God the Father has for lost sons and daughters even after they have squandered their inheritance and wasted their lives. God welcomes everybody and the church should do the same.
But at the same time as many churches have been rediscovering this truth of the gospel, many have been forgetting something else which is equally important. God is not only the God of Love. God is also and equally the Holy God, whose eyes are too pure to look on evil, and cannot tolerate wrongdoing. (Habbakuk 1:13) It is good that Christians are focussing more on the truth that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. But some are forgetting the fact that Jesus also called people to follow him and become his disciples. When they would not do that and Jesus moved on, many people got left behind. Jesus accepted everybody, but the blessings of the Kingdom of God are for those who repent and turn from their sins and put their trust in Jesus.
One of the great things about the Book of Psalms is that different psalms draw our attention to different aspects of God. Some remind us of God’s greatness as Creator. Some point us to the unfailing love of God. Some express thanksgiving for God’s wonderful acts of Salvation in the nation of Israel or in the life of the psalm-writer. But there are other psalms which remind us that God is the Holy God. They call us to repentance and confession.
Here is Psalm 24, which at its heart asks and answers a vitally important question.
3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?

What qualifications does the God of the Bible look for in those who wish to enter His presence and worship Him?
The Psalm begins by reminding us of who God is.
1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

God is the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe. He founded it – he made it. And he sustains it – he has established it. So the whole universe belongs to God. The earth. Everything in it. All who live in it. Everything belongs to God the Creator. Actually the translation of the psalm is weak when it begins “The earth is the Lord’s”. It is much stronger in its declaration. “It is TO THE LORD that the earth belongs!”
All of the Psalms remind us how great God is. And Psalm 24 goes on to do so. The setting is God arriving in Jerusalem to take His place on His throne.
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.

God is “the King of glory.” Five times the psalm reminds us. God is the King of glory. Amd who is the King of glory? He is the Lord, strong and mighty. The Lord, mighty in battle, victorious over all the powers of evil. The Lord who defeated all the armies of the Egyptians when He rescued His chosen people from slavery in Egypt and brought them safely through the Red Sea on dry land. The Lord mighty in Battle. Who is this King of glory? He is the Lord Almighty! The God who is all powerful.
So – who is qualified to come and worship this God who is Creator and the Almighty Lord of glory? Not everybody can enter the presence of such a wondrous God.
3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

God the Almighty Lord of glory is the Holy God. And he demands holiness from those who worship Him. The words holy and holiness are used more than 600 times in the Bible and almost 50 times in the psalms. The bible speaks of purity more than 100 times. Only those who are holy may enter God’s presence.

4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,

God demands holiness. Holiness on the outside – clean hands – holy actions. And holiness on the inside – a pure heart – purity in thoughts and actions. It was ever so. If we want to worship God and enter his presence, we need to be clean and pure inside and out. As Jesus reminds us in the SIXTH beatitude Matthew 5 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Who can come before God in worship – only the person
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god
Those who put their trust in false gods and swear allegiance to them cannot enter the presence of the Holy Creator God. Only those who look to God to make them holy. This is the truth which some churches are neglecting when they emphasise God’s unconditional welcome to all. God welcomes sinners, but he loves us too much to leave us as sinners. He wants to change us into saints – those who he has made to be holy. So who can enter God’s presence? Only
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
5 They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Saviour.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.,
Those who are truly seeking God are not just looking for him just to welcome them. They are looking for him to be their Saviour. Looking for God to forgive them and transform them. Change them like he did Jacob the liar and cheat who He turned into Israel the father of God’s chosen people.
God offers forgiveness to those who put their trust in Him. And then he changes them to be like Him. Psalm 25 picks up that theme.
Psalm 25 4 Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.
5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me, for you, LORD, are good.
We come to God confessing our sin and praying that he will forgive us. But then it is inevitable that we will recognise the holiness of God and look for Him to teach us how to follow him.
8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, LORD, forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Time and again the psalms remind us that God is the HOLY God! God doesn’t just welcome us and forgive us. He commands us to repent and by the Holy Spirit he changes us into the image of Christ. Because He is the King of glory.
7 Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

You may be asking, when was it that God the King of Glory entered Jerusalem? When did those gates of the city open to welcome The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle, The LORD Almighty? Many people think that the background to Psalm 24 can be found in 2 Samuel 6 and the occasion when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into Jerusalem. Perhaps it was a liturgy composed for that very occasion. But let me remind you of what happened when the Ark was on the way up to Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 6:1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. 5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the LORD, with castanets. harps, lyres, tambourines, rattles and cymbals.

This was a very important event in the life of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant, carrying the two stone tablets with the ten commandments written on them, were the visible sign of God’s presence among His chosen people Israel. And this was the occasion when David was intending to bring the Ark into his capital city Jerusalem. But on the way in there was the terrifying reminder of the holiness of God.

6 When they came to the threshing-floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The LORD’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.
8 Then David was angry because the LORD’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah, and to this day that place is called Perez Uzzah.
9 David was afraid of the LORD that day and said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD ever come to me

The Ark of the Covenant was always carried by the priests on two long poles. Nobody was allowed to touch the Ark itself because the glory and the holiness of Almighty God dwelt there. And when Uzzah reached out and touched the Ark, God immediately struck him dead. God is indeed the holy God. Too holy to look at sin. Nobody could enter God’s presence or even see the face of God. To remain in God’s presence and dwell with the holy God demands holiness. There is a truth we neglect at our peril!

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


Psalm 15 picks up the same theme. READ PSALM 15 TOGETHER

This entry was posted in Psalms.

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