In this sermon, Pastor Dave Capoccia examines the model prayer-song of Psalm 24. Pastor Dave explains from the psalm three reasons to celebrate King Yahweh in a life of holy worship.
1. King Yahweh Owns and Rules All (vv. 1-2)
2. King Yahweh Dwells with the Holy (vv. 3-6)
3. King Yahweh Is Coming in Glory (vv. 7-10)
Today, we’re taking a tiny break from our topical series on the Disciplines of Grace to focus on just one passage. We will look at a model prayer for us from the Psalms.
Let’s ask for the Lord’s blessing during this time of bible exposition. Lord, You are the great God. You do rule over all. Lord, we want to learn anew. We want to focus on You as the King, the King who deserves worship, obedience, and praise. Equip me, Lord, to explain this now and enable us, God, to hear and practice this word. In Jesus’ name, amen.
As Pastor Babij said, tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and I was going to quiz you on what that was, but you all got the answer already. What does the Fourth of July commemorate but the Declaration of Independence. It was the day that we officially declared independence from Great Britain. You could call it America’s birthday. On July 4th, 1776, the continental congress formally adopted the document we still revere today, the Declaration of Independence. If you read through it, it’s a not-so-long document that announces and explains why the thirteen colonies were separating from Great Britain and Great Britain’s tyrannical king, at least in the colonist’s minds. It explained why they were doing it.
Now, America did not act perfectly in its beginning, and nor has America always acted righteously since then. But even as Pastor Babij said, over the years, the United States has proved to be a blessed land and many times a blessing to the world. It is appropriate for us tomorrow, July 4th, to celebrate our nation’s beginning and even to give thanks to God for the grace He’s shown us in this country and shown the world through this country over the past 246 years.
But though we’re celebrating July 4th tomorrow, I propose we have a different celebration today. And in many ways, this celebration will be the opposite of tomorrow’s celebration. Tomorrow, we celebrate independence, and today let’s celebrate dependence. Tomorrow, we celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness under self-government but today, let’s celebrate life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness under someone else’s government. Tomorrow, we celebrate the rejection and removal of a bad king, and today let’s celebrate our reconciliation with and submission to a good King.
For this is what our passage today invites us to do with whom who is the King of kings, King Yahweh our God. Please take your bibles and open to Psalm 24. This is page 564 in the pew Bible. The title of the message is O’ Worship the King. We’ll jump right in and read our passage in Psalm 24, starting with the title,
A Psalm of David.
The earth is Yahweh’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of Yahweh? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. 5He shall receive a blessing from Yahweh and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face—even Jacob. Selah.
7 Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! 8Who is the King of glory? Yahweh strong and mighty, and Yahweh mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! 10 Who is the King of glory? Yahweh of hosts, He is the King of glory! Selah.
Before we go verse by verse through this text, let’s notice a few overarching details. Notice the title; it appears before verse one and says ‘a Psalm’. What’s a Psalm? Well, that’s a technical Hebrew word meaning a song sung to musical accompaniment, which means that this passage we just read isn’t just instruction; it’s music. It’s a prayer song written in worship and celebration of God. You can see some of the musical quality in the text. Notice that we twice have the word selah. I didn’t read it, but it’s there in the text. This is another technical Hebrew word that we don’t exactly know the meaning of, but we know it is musical. It means something like pause or gets loud or musical interlude. We see that twice. The writer apparently wanted the music to change dramatically after verses six and ten.
You also may notice there are some question-and-answer sections in this Psalm. Like in verses three and four and verses seven to ten. This may have been intended as a section of antiphony or call and response singing. One part sings something, and then the other part answers. Antiphonal singing was a frequent feature of ancient music.
Now, of course, we not only notice that this is a Psalm but that it appears in the book of Psalms—this is the 24th. Why is that significant? Well, because the book of Psalms is the divinely authored worship handbook. It’s a collection of 150 prayer songs. It was given by the Spirit of God through human authors to the people of Israel and eventually to us to be prayed and sung back to God as worship. This Psalm then is an authoritative worship model for us. It should inform our thinking and living and even our singing and praying.
There are certain categories of Psalms in the Bible. You have confession Psalms, petition Psalms, and praise Psalms; these categories overlap to some degree. Psalm 24 fits into the category of royal song, even messianic song, and I don’t think it takes much thinking to see why due to the emphasis on kingship in this passage.
Bible teachers often note how Psalm 24 fits into a trilogy of Psalms with the two that came before it. Psalm 22, you might remember, is a Psalm of the Messiah’s suffering on the cross, very obviously messianic and royal. Psalm 23, of course, is that famous Psalm about the Lord, even the Messiah, as the good Shepherd. Then we have Psalm 24, a song celebrating the King and His arrival in triumphant glory. There seems to be a poignant order in these three psalms. We have the suffering Servant, the providing Shepherd, and the victorious King. Does that not reflect what Messiah has done, is doing, and will do?
Look again at the title for Psalm 24. We also see that this Psalm is of David, which means that it belongs to David and that David wrote it. You remember David, a one-time shepherd chosen by God to be a courageous warrior, deliverer, and even righteous king for Israel. David wasn’t perfect, but as is very clear in the Bible, he was fundamentally devoted to Yahweh and loved to give Him praise. He’s called the sweet psalmist of Israel in one place, and that’s a very apt name because he authored 75 of the Bible’s 150 Psalms—that’s half of it. This is a man who’s clearly delighted in worshipping God and wants to invite others in, and Psalm 24 is one example, one invitation towards that end. David gives us, and God gives us by His Spirit, this Psalm so that we too might delight in worshipping God as King.
Can we discern anything about the historical occasion of this Psalm? What led to its being written? We don’t get any more information from the title, but if you look at what’s spoken in the Psalm notice, the Psalm celebrates the arrival of King Yahweh into a particular city. Did something special like this ever happen in the life of David? Well, yes, indeed! In 2 Samuel 6:12-23, also noted in 1 Chronicles 15 and 16, we hear that David brought the ark of God’s presence to Jerusalem, which was David’s new capital city, and it was also the city that God chose in a special way to set His name and presence.
In a sense, God, Yahweh came into the city and the Ark’s arrival day was a day of great rejoicing and feasting. 2 Samuel tells us that David danced before the Lord with all his might, and David likely wrote this Psalm in preparation for that day or in commemoration of that day. But does this Psalm only mark that one historical event? Or did David use the event to speak even about the future?
Let’s take a close look at the Psalm. The Psalm divides grammatically and thematically into three sections, which will be the three main points in my sermon. Here’s the main idea: David gives three reasons to celebrate King Yahweh in a life of holy worship in this Psalm. Three reasons for you and me this morning to celebrate King Yahweh in life, a whole life of holy worship. Our first reason appears in verses one to two. That’s the first section. Number one, King Yahweh owns and rules all. Look at Psalm 24:1 again,
1The earth is Yahweh’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.
You see the word or the title, the ‘LORD’ in all capital letters in your Bible if you’re using the New American Standard. What’s that? Well, this is our English bible’s traditional way of designating the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh. That’s why you will hear me say Yahweh instead of Lord because that’s what it is in the original text. What’s Yahweh? Yahweh was a reference to God’s statement in Exodus 3:14 when He declared to Moses, for Moses to pass down to Israel: I AM WHO I AM. Therefore, Yahweh is a special name for God that highlights, on the one hand, His eternality, His holiness, and His transcendence. It’s not I was or will be, but I am. On the other hand, it highlights God’s faithfulness and His intimate covenant relationship with a chosen people, Israel. It was the name only explained to them.
So, we see the name Yahweh but in English, verse one starts with the earth is Yahweh’s, but in the original Hebrew, the order is reversed to say Yahweh’s is the earth. You say, well, what’s the significance of that? Well, indeed, it’s about emphasis. David wants Yahweh’s name to be the thing that stands out. That’s why he brings it to the beginning of the sentence. There’s also a parallel between the title and the beginning of verse one. The title literally reads in Hebrew: belonging to David, a Psalm. Whereas verse one begins with belonging to Yahweh, the earth and all it contains. There’s an allusion to the language of Genesis 1:2 and the creation account there. David says that God owns both the formed planet and everything that fills it. Those are the two things that God was accomplishing in the creation narrative, forming the earth and filling it.
Now, line two of verse one parallels what we just heard, but it gets more specific. What else belongs to Yahweh, according to David? Well, the world is a term for the dry land, especially its inhabited parts, and those who dwell in it are those living on the dry land. Now, who lives on the dry land of the world? Some animals do, but mainly we do. People do. David is saying belonging to Yahweh is the earth and all that fills it, even the dry land and the people who live there. To say it even more concisely, everything on earth belongs to King Yahweh, even you.
How did God acquire this ownership? Who gave Him the right to rule the world as King everything in it? He did, as verse two explains. Look at verse two,
For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Notice the word ‘for,’ that’s a transition word that indicates David is supplying a reason for what he just said. A reason why God owns everything. What’s the reason? Well, God made the world. God created the world. You make something for yourself with your own resources, you own it, and that’s what God did. He made the whole world by Himself, for Himself, and so it’s His.
Now, what’s this all about seas and rivers and building on those things? This is a poetic way to refer to the creation account, how God made the world and the land. Remember, the formless earth was covered with water, but God separated the waters, and He brought the dry land out of the water. He made the dry land appear. If you were to look for the foundations, as it were, of the earth of the land itself, you must look to the water. Even today, where are the deepest places you can go on earth without digging into the ground? Underwater.
The main point of verse two, don’t miss it, is that God is the one who built the world. He’s the One who founded it upon the seas and rivers, so only He has the right to rule it. Not only did God build it, but He’s also ultimately the One who maintains it and keeps it going, and you can even see this in verse two in an interesting way. You see the word ‘established’ in line two of verse two. The word ‘established’ is roughly equivalent to the word ‘founded’ in line one. They both refer to a sturdy and lasting set-up. This is what God did for the world. Whereas ‘founded’ is in the past tense in the original Hebrew, ‘established’ is in the present tense; He establishes it upon the rivers.
Many would say that this present tense was just a scribal typo, and we shouldn’t pay attention to it because it’s past tense. But, while unexpected, I think ‘establishes’ makes perfect sense. God not only originally founded the world, but He keeps it established. He keeps establishing it so that it will not be shaken or lost without His say-so. After all, Hebrews 1:3 agrees when it says of Jesus Christ that He upholds all things by the Word of His power. Clearly, if God is both the creator and the sustainer of the world and everyone in it, He has the full right to rule.
Consider how such a rule demonstrates the greatness of King Yahweh. We recognize the greatness of any king corresponds to the value and extent of what he rules. If you come along and say to me, I am the king of my room. That may be true, but that doesn’t make you significantly great if that’s the extent of your dominion—one room, what’s that? Or if you come along and say instead, I am the king of the country of Nauru. Okay, becoming a king is impressive, but what’s Nauru? If you look it up on Wikipedia, it’s the third smallest country in the world. It’s an eight-square-mile island in the Pacific. Ruling just a few square miles and a few thousand people is something, but that doesn’t make you a great king.
If you came along, instead, saying I have become the king of Germany or China or America, well, I don’t know how you would do that, but if you did, that’d be pretty great Kingship. I mean, that’s a lot of land, that’s a lot of people, that’s a lot of value. Now, what about King Yahweh? Who as the Creator rules over every person, every place, and everything on the earth and directs it all according to His own perfect, wise, loving will. That is an extremely valuable kingship. That is an overwhelmingly powerful and sovereign dominion. Truly Yahweh is the greatest King, and He is worthy, simply on that basis, of all honor, obedience, and praise from His creation. That includes you and me, so do you give that to Yahweh? Do you celebrate Him with a life of holy worship? David, the Psalmist, is already directing you to do so. Celebrate King Yahweh in a life of holy worship because, number one, He owns and rules all.
We get a second reason to celebrate King Yahweh in the next verses, verses three to six. Number two, King Yahweh dwells with the holy. Look at verse three,
Who may ascend into the hill of Yahweh? And who may stand in His holy place?
These two lines are two versions of the same critical question. Who is worthy to dwell with Yahweh? Line one here talks about going up to the hill or mountain of the Lord. It’s the same word in Hebrew. Line two talks about standing before Him in His holy or set-apart place. Considering the greatness of Yahweh’s kingship, considering that He is the holy I am, who is allowed to do these things?
The question, of course, had practical implications for the original setting. In David’s day after the Ark of God, where God manifests His presence, is brought into Jerusalem. It’s transported to Mount Zion. Who’s allowed to be near that? But the question is, in fact, timeless and relevant to all of us who are listening here today. Who may present acceptable worship to Yahweh, and who is allowed to live and remain where He is? Whether on earth or in heaven.
David doesn’t leave us in suspense too long. He gives us the answer immediately in verse four. Look there,
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.
The three lines in verse four declare a single truth in two opposite ways. Namely, only the holy may dwell with Yahweh. According to verse four, the acceptable and worthy person must first have clean hands, which has nothing to do with hand washing. This is to say, his outward actions and speech must be totally blameless, perfect. He must also have a pure heart. His thoughts, desires, and motivations must be completely right and good all the time. Negatively speaking, he must not have lifted up his soul to falsehood, which is to say, his trust and affections do not go toward anything evil, false, or useless.
Compare the first line of Psalm 25. You can probably see it on your same page, where David talks about only lifting up his soul to Yahweh in trust. Then on the outside, negatively speaking, the worthy person must not have sworn deceitfully. He has not lied or sworn falsely at all to take advantage of another person.
This is a short list, but the summaries and the representative actions provided are pretty comprehensive. To dwell with Yahweh and to present Him with acceptable worship positively, you must be perfectly holy inside and out. Blameless toward God and others. And negatively, you must not believe or act towards God or others in any false way. By the way, we see similar descriptions of the worthy person, the person worthy to dwell with Yahweh, in Psalm 15 and Isaiah 33:14-16.
Now, the reward for the one who proves himself worthy is precious. If you peek at verse five, we see that God will bestow on such a one blessing and righteousness. We’ve got to hit the brakes here for a second. We’ve got to ask ourselves, do I meet God’s standards? Am I worthy to ascend God’s Mountain and stand in His holy presence? Now you might be inclined to say, I don’t know about perfectly holy, but is pretty good enough?
Well, an answer, let’s consider what happens with transporting God’s Ark to Jerusalem. This is given to us in the history books of the Old Testament. According to 1 Samuel 4, Israel lost God’s Ark when they tried to use it like a good luck charm to win a battle against the Philistines, even though the Israelites were still seeking idols and sins. They thought they could bring the ark and win the battle that way, but it didn’t work. Israel was slaughtered in battle, and the Philistines captured the Ark. Then, in 1 Samuel 5 and 6, the Philistines tried to place Yahweh alongside their other gods.
As a result, God smote the Philistines in various cities with deadly tumors until they gave the Ark back to Israel. Very poignantly, in 1 Samuel 6:19-20, after the Ark was returned to Israel at the city of Beit Shemesh, a Levitical city, we hear that God killed 50,070 Israelites because they tried to look inside the Ark. There’s some debate as to whether that number is legitimate. Was it 50,070 or just 70? Regardless, understand God killed celebrating Israelites, worshipping Israelites, Israelites who were so happy and praising because the Ark had been returned because they broke His law and tried to touch and look inside the Ark.
Do you know what the people of Israel asked in 1 Samuel 6:20 after witnessing God’s holy wrath in this way?
Who is able to stand before Yahweh, this holy God?
That sounds familiar. For decades, the Ark remained at Kiriath-Jearim, a city of Gibeonites, non-Israelites. Then, King David attempted to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. Again, we have this celebratory event. It’s triumphant. People are praising God and worshipping God, except David is transporting God’s Ark by a cart instead of, as the law required, by the hands of the Levites. Do you know what happened when the oxen stumbled and one of the attendants, well-meaning Izzah, put out his hand to stabilize the Ark and prevent it from falling? What a nice thing to do. God immediately struck Uzzah dead for Uzzah’s irreverence.
When David saw this, he first became angry, I’m sure he was embarrassed, but then he feared. He said in 2 Samuel 6:9: How can the ark of Yahweh come to me? It’s a similar response. It’s only later in 2 Samuel 6 when David brings up the ark exactly as God’s law prescribed, even going over the top as he offers sacrifices like every few feet that the ark moves. It’s only then that David successfully brought the ark into Jerusalem without anyone dying.
I bring up this short history of God’s ark to give you a clear picture of what God considers acceptable. Pretty good will not cut it with God. Saying I tried my best will not cut it with God. Or God, you know my heart and my motivations; that will not cut it with God either. God is Yahweh. He is a holy God who will not accept anything except absolute, total perfection, a holiness that is the same as His own. He said this much to Israel: Be holy, for I am holy. You must be totally clean, totally pure, totally free of falsehood in heart and life if you are to stand in His presence.
Any failure to keep His law, in even one part, will not result in blessing, but cursing. As Deuteronomy 27:26 says,
‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’
One accurate answer to the question of Psalm 24:3, who may ascend God’s hill and stand in His presence, is no one. Nobody is worthy. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment (Isaiah 64:6). The sad truth is that on your own, and my own, we have no way into the holy presence of God. We are banished. We are locked out of His blessing and doomed under a curse to punishment.
There is another accurate answer to verse 3’s question because, after all, God’s ark did eventually make its way to Jerusalem. God did dwell with the people who were not perfectly holy but weren’t consumed, and He did bless them. How? Not by their perfect adherence to God’s law but by faith and substitutionary sacrifice. Remember, God included in His law a system of sacrifice. The sacrifice of a blameless animal as a provision to cover, even forgive, sin. Not that animals have any power on their own to bring about God’s forgiveness, Hebrews 10:4 is quite clear about that. Sacrificing a sheep or a bull doesn’t change anything. Still, God accepted them because of what they pictured, an ultimate provision, an ultimate sacrifice, an ultimate covering that would come in the future. Who or what was that sacrifice and covering? The rest of the scriptures reveals it was King Yahweh Himself!
When Yahweh came into the world as the man Jesus, He perfectly fulfilled the requirements of Psalm 24:4. He had clean hands and a pure heart. He didn’t lift up His soul to falsehood and didn’t deal with anyone falsely. He and He alone was worthy to dwell in Yahweh’s presence and inherit His blessing. This is the second correct answer to Psalm 24:3, who is worthy to ascend the hill of the Lord? It is only Jesus. Only Jesus is worthy.
But then Jesus did something magnificent, according to what we call the Gospel, the good news. He handed Himself over to die on a cross and suffer the punishment and curse that is due to us, all who believe in Jesus, instead. King Yahweh gave Himself up as a substitutionary sacrifice to Yahweh. The perfect One dying for imperfect sinners. In so doing, He made a great exchange. He gave them (believing sinners) His perfect record, clean hands, and pure hearts, and He took from them and paid off all their sins once and for all. Even the eternal punishment of hell, He paid it off once and for all at the cross. The sacrifice was accepted because He rose from the dead three days later. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says,
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
For those who have faith in Yahweh, like Abraham did (Genesis 15:6), more specifically those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 10:9-10), and in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, they are counted righteous before God. They are made acceptable, not by their works, but by the once and for all accomplished work of Christ on their behalf. A third accurate answer to Psalm 24:3, who is worthy of going into the hill of the Lord? The answer is only those who believe in Jesus. Only those who are found in Jesus. They will ascend the hill of the Lord. They will stand in His presence and experience Yahweh’s blessing.
Though, such saving faith is not shallow. It is paired with repentance, so the believer no longer pursues sin, idols, or other treasures besides God. He fundamentally pursues God and God’s righteousness. A believer does not add to his salvation and does not complete what Jesus started with his good deeds. Instead, as a result of salvation and the faith that has saved him once and for all, he seeks the Lord’s face in holy worship. It’s not the root of his salvation, but it is the fruit of it.
This corresponds to exactly what Hebrews 12:14 commands. Hebrews 12:14 says,
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
It’s almost like we come full circle in Psalm 24:3-4, but not quite. It’s not as if anyone can be holy enough, good enough, on his own to enter God’s presence. The only ones who are acceptable are those who come on the basis of faith in God’s provisions, Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, those who do come by faith will be characterized by holy lives, cleanness of hands, purity of heart, not lifting up the soul to falsehood, and not dealing falsely with others. Only then are their lives and their worship acceptable to Yahweh. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Let me ask all who are listening today, do you believe in Jesus, Yahweh Jesus, to be your saving substitute who accomplished it all on your behalf? You have nothing to add, nothing to contribute, except the sin that made your salvation necessary. Do you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If you say yes, do you show it in how you live your life? Do you pursue Yahweh in holy worship?
Hebrews 11:6 says,
And without faith it is impossible to please Him,
This is the doom of all those who believe their works can save them. But James 2:17 says that faith without works, without a life of holiness coming from the faith, is fake and dead. Faith that doesn’t produce a life of holiness is fake and dead. That kind of faith will not bring one into the presence of Yahweh.
I spent a lot of time explaining verses 3 and 4 because I think that’s necessary for us to appreciate verses 5 and 6 appropriately. Let’s now look at verse 5. What can those who walk by faith in Christ in the pursuit of holiness expect from God? Verse 5,
5He shall receive a blessing from Yahweh and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Two rewards are mentioned here. First, the worthy person will receive a blessing from Yahweh. He will literally lift a blessing. There’s a play on words with what came before in verse 4. If you don’t lift up your soul to falsehood, you will lift up a blessing from Yahweh.
What is more precious, more valuable, than to be blessed by the holy and all-powerful King of the universe? The phrase ‘a blessing’, may seem small and insignificant all by itself, but consider what’s contained in that little phrase. The rest of the scriptures inform us of this. To receive a blessing from Yahweh is to receive an extravagant promise from the King Himself of protection, deliverance, preservation, healing, empowerment, prosperity, favor, exaltation, peace, and joy. To the blessed Yahweh pours out abundant life now and forever.
Even the trials of this world, the persecutions that come with following Jesus, and the hurts that come by the sins of others against us, for the one who is blessed in Yahweh He bends all of those to the good of the one who He has so blessed. Those blessed this way by King Yahweh can never have their blessing taken away. Is that not a treasure?
It’s not the only blessing. Notice, as verse 5 says, it’s righteousness. You shall receive righteousness. God will bestow a pronouncement of blamelessness and uprightness on this holy seeker. This is what we so desperately need, isn’t it? Because we are not righteous on our own. Through Christ, presented to Yahweh, through the salvation work of Yahweh, we are pronounced and counted righteous. Positionally holy. After all, notice the title given for God given at the end of verse 5. He’s called ‘the God of his salvation.’ The word for God is Elohim which emphasizes God’s power, linked with God’s power to save and rescue.
Christ, our mighty God, not only blesses us with frequent temporal rescue in this life, but He also rescues us once and for all spiritually from His just wrath and will one day rescue us eternally. He saves us to dwell with Him forever. This is what the one brought into God’s presence receives: blessing and righteousness.
What should be the response of God’s people to such a mighty King who not only blesses but Himself makes it possible for us His people to be there? To go up and dwell in His presence. We get the answer in verse 6. Verse 6,
This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face—even Jacob. Selah.
The response that David models for us in verse 6 is to proclaim that he and his generation of Israelites will be the ones who truly seek God, even the face of God. That expression ‘God’s face’ is not an idol one. If you compare it with other scriptures, you will see that God’s face is often associated in the Bible with glory, beauty, favor, prosperity, and life. How appropriate that the greatest blessing we can receive emanate from God’s very face. It’s not that God has blessings; He is blessing in Himself.
David, in essence, is telling God: Yahweh, we are seeking an intimate relationship with You because You in Yourself are the source of all true life, joy, and blessing. Can your hearts say amen to that? Will you also declare to God that you are part of the generation that will seek Yahweh’s face?
Note here the reference to Jacob at the end. This is kind of a funny thing in the text. Some translators infer, from the context and the sense of this verse, that the sentence originally read ‘Oh, God of Jacob.’ If you are reading in the ESV or NIV, that’s how the text reads. If you have the New American Standard, King James Version, or the Legacy Standard Bible, the Hebrew tracts verse 6 is reflected in a very abrupt ending: seek your face—Jacob. There are some words in italics that give you a sense of it. Seek Your face, even Jacob. Or as Jacob. It is abrupt in Hebrew, but it seems the more difficult reading, it’s probably the more original reading. It probably does end with just ‘Jacob.’
The sense would appear to be that David identifies the generation of worshippers that he’s part of, that will seek Yahweh as Jacob, another name for Israel. He is saying: we are the true Israel, the Israel of Israel.
Why does he call them Jacob and not Israel? Perhaps, David wants to bring to mind the patriarch Jacob’s experience with God’s face and blessing. Do you remember this? Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with the angel of Yahweh. What did Jacob say as he was wrestling? Angel of Yahweh (Yahweh Himself) says to him: let me go, the dawn has come! Jacob says: I will not let you go until You bless me. How did Yahweh respond? He did bless Jacob. When Jacob later realizes what happened, Jacob says in amazement: I have seen God face-to-face, yet my life has been preserved.
It would seem that David is bringing all of this to mind and by that allusion, urging us, as he urged the people of Israel in his day, to seek Yahweh’s face like Jacob and not to let go until Yahweh gives His blessing. It’s not a mercenary thing. That’s a devotion thing. If Yahweh is the source of all blessing, then you must cling to Him as Jacob did.
This is the second reason to celebrate King Yahweh in life, a whole life of holy worship. Yahweh dwells with the holy. That should sober you in one sense. You cannot claim a place with God while you walk in sin. In another sense, when armed with a true fear of God, the beginning of wisdom, when also armed with faith in Christ, this should cause you to celebrate because you know that God has made way for you to dwell as a saint, as a holy one, in His presence. He did the impossible for you! You are saved, forever brought near to a holy God. You will be blessed. You have received righteousness from the God of your salvation. He is pleased to receive your worship and to bring you where He is.
The final reason given to us is in verses 7 to 10. As you’ll see in a moment, it’s the most exuberant. It’s like a crescendo of emotion in this passage. We’ve heard that King Yahweh owns and rules all. King Yahweh also dwells with the holy. But the third reason we should celebrate Him in a life of holy worship is number three: King Yahweh is coming in glory.
Look at the first part of verse 7,
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!
What’s happening here? This, in literary terms, is called an apostrophe, and I’m not talking about the quotation mark. This is a speech towards an absent person or to a personified object. It’s figurative language. David is giving a command to the very gates and doors of the city as if they could comply. By these figurate words, David is poetically expressing his excitement, anticipation, and desire to get things ready for the King’s imminent arrival.
David calls to the entrances: lift up your heads! This is an intriguing command for several reasons. One, this is the third time in this Psalm that we see the phrase ‘lifted up,’ I see a theme here. Two, to lift up one’s head is also an idiom in Hebrew which means to regain hope, gain confidence, or be restored to honor. And three, gates don’t have heads. What is David talking about here? David says further to these city entrances: be lifted up, O ancient doors! Not just the heads of the gates, but the whole doors are supposed to be lifted up? That’s interesting too because ancient gates didn’t open upwards; they opened inwards normally. David calls these doors ancient. That’s probably not a reference to the oldness of the wood itself, the reinforced wood of these gates/doors, but probably the stony entranceway to which the doors were placed. Those usually have been around for a while, so they could be characterized as ancient.
Why this double call to lift up? Line three of verse 7 tells us that the King of glory may come in! David says these doors need to be lifted up and removed to make room for the King’s coming. David exclaims, the glorious King is arriving soon, we’ve got to enlarge these gates, we need for headroom on these gates, in fact, pull out the entire door, blow open the whole entrance that the King of glory may come in.
The question of verse 8 naturally follows,
8Who is the King of glory? Yahweh strong and mighty, and Yahweh mighty in battle.
David answers the question of identity immediately and emphatically. Who’s the King of glory? Who’s the glorious King? Why, it’s Yahweh! It’s the great King I have been talking about this entire Psalm! Notice David describes Yahweh in clear warrior terms, and he repeats himself for emphasis. Yahweh strong and mighty, Yahweh the mighty one in battle. You might say, what’s with this warrior stuff? As a warrior himself, David had seen firsthand how God had fought mightily for Israel. God promised to do this, and He did this many times. David also knew that Yahweh would keep fighting for His people until ultimate salvation was accomplished. Yahweh is a warrior; He is strong and mighty just as David says.
With verses 7 and 8 together David is proclaiming King Yahweh is coming. Quick! We need to enlarge the entrances for such a glorious, conquering hero. Besides, was such a mighty victorious king who needs protective gates anymore anyways? Tear them down and let the King of glory come in.
As I said, this is figurative language. David is not actually calling down for the gates of Jerusalem to be torn down, but he is figuratively because King Yahweh is that great.
For extra celebration and emphasis, David repeats his call to the gates and the answer with slight variation in verses 9 and 10. Look at those,
Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! 10 Who is the King of glory? Yahweh of hosts, He is the King of glory! Selah.
You may notice the slight differences in the second version of the call-and-response. When answering the question ‘who is He?’ David says the second time that this is Yahweh of hosts. You heard that title in the reading earlier in the service. Yahweh of hosts could also be translated as Yahweh of armies. He’s got a whole host, a whole army behind Him. This is a common title for God in the Old Testament and emphasizes His power, His faithful power even to deliver.
Then David is very emphatic with a closing statement. He says, He Himself, Yahweh, is the King of glory. Notice that David doesn’t identify himself as the King of glory, though David was a pretty majestic and victorious king. Still, David knew that whatever he had, even his great victories, came from King Yahweh. He is the one that accomplished it all for David. Therefore, King Yahweh is the one who gets the glory. Yahweh of hosts, He and only He is the King of glory.
This is where the worship song ends. You notice the little word ‘selah,’ so I imagine there’s this big triumphant instrument fanfare at the end as we reach the song’s climax. Maybe they looped through it several times, but you have that instrumentation right at the end.
Suppose we imagine what was probably the original historical setting. In that case, we can see, almost hear, the words of verses 7 and 10 being jubilantly sung back and forth by the choirs of Israel as the ark of God is brought into Jerusalem for the first time to reside there as God’s special dwelling place.
The words of this Psalm, perhaps you’ve sensed this, have a certain timelessness that makes them appropriate for any time Yahweh of hosts comes into His special city in glorious victory. Here’s where I will mention to you a certain poignant historical fact. In Israel, after the days of exile, after they’ve been in Babylon and were brought back to the land, one thing that the Jews decided to do was to give each day of the week a Psalm. They designated an official Psalm of the day to be read, or sung, sometime during that day when that day of the week came around.
We see this practice mentioned in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament composed in the third to second centuries B.C. We also see it testified in Talmud, later Jewish commentaries put together in A.D 200-500. This definitely happened, which means by Jesus’ day, the recitation or the singing of the Psalm of the day was the practice of the Jews. Psalm 24 was chosen as a Psalm of the day, but guess which day? The first day of the week. Sunday. It was the practice of the Jews to sing or recite Psalm 24 on the first day of the week. This means when King Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, guess what song the Jews were singing? Psalm 24. When King Jesus rose from the day the following Sunday, guess what song the Jews were inadvertently singing that day? Psalm 24.
Furthermore, throughout history, Christians have often recited or sung Psalm 24 to commemorate Jesus’ salvation victory, and ascension to heaven. But there will be at least one more day in which the people of God, including a newly repentant and saved Israel, will be singing Psalm 24. That day will climax the appropriateness of this Psalm, and what day is that? It is the day when Jesus returns. It’s what we read about earlier in Zechariah 14. When King Jesus, King Yahweh Jesus, comes back to the earth, it will be in glory, and He will destroy His enemies like a mighty warrior. He will rescue Jerusalem and set up His perfectly just and righteous kingdom on earth.
When the victorious King arrives on that day, guess what? If you’re in Christ, you’re going to be with Him! Did you notice that in Zechariah 14 earlier? It says, He and the hosts (or armies) with him. He came with people. Yahweh of host comes with hosts. If you’re in Christ, you will be part of that. When you’re with Him, and you show up in Jerusalem, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about whether the city gate is large enough for King Jesus because if it isn’t, guess what King Jesus is going to do? He’s just going to lift it right out of the way!
Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!
As we anticipate the return of Christ, this is an appropriate song for us to sing. If you believe in Jesus, you are saved in Jesus, and if you show that by living a holy life in pursuit of the face of Yahweh Jesus, then celebrate today. Celebrate by praying and singing this Psalm.
When the Lord returns, how insignificant many of the issues of our lives will be right now. The sins that we are tempted with. The passing treasures that seem to catch our interest and care so much. What will that be when the King of glory comes into a city? Let us do that. Let us not only sing this Psalm but let us do what it instructs us to do. Because of God’s universal rule, His merciful saving and dwelling with the saints, and because He will soon return in glory, let us put off sin and let us celebrate the Lord with lives of holy worship.
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, You are the King of glory and have given a glorious word even in this Psalm. Oh Lord, we want to see the gates lifted up. We want to see You enter in. Yahweh of armies, Yahweh strong and mighty, You have shown Yourself strong in so many ways, not only in the physical deliverances recorded in the Bible, not only in Your provisions and rescues in the many experiences of our lives but fundamentally in our salvation. You delivered us from sin and death—these mighty enemies that we could not conquer and would ruin us. Jesus, You rescued, You fought, You conquered so that we are saved and safe, and we will dwell with You on Your holy hill. Lord, let us no longer walk in sin anymore. Lord, let us do as Your word says in the New Testament to live lives worthy of the salvation calling by which we have been called. We can’t do that without Your strength, but if You are the mighty God and You promised us Your strength, then we can do it as we rely on You. As we have faith in You, we can say no to ungodliness, put away evil thoughts, forgive, love our enemies and those who mistreat us and do good to all people, especially the household of faith. God, glorify Yourself in doing this through us so that we may give you praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.