A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Psalm 24
Psalm 24 is an enduring message that describes the exaltation of the heavenly king. It’s a psalm that David paints in vivid detail “who” the heavenly king is, what he expects of us, and what he has done for us.
In the first place, God is the Sovereign King.
[Read Psalm 24:1-2]
At the outset David establishes this King’s majesty and sovereignty by declaring that this King is the LORD who rules the world. It is His world, both the stuff in it, and the people in it. Every tiny molecule and every majestic mountain belong to him, and live under his sovereign rule, his providence, his direction, his management, and his purposes.
As the sovereign King, nothing and no one rules other than him. All man-made gods in this world are nothing to him. They are worthless idols who have no power to rule, no power to create, and everything that fills the earth: mountains, rivers, oceans, bugs, humidity, people, viruses, dictators, terrorists, governments belong to him, and live under his sovereign rule.
David tells us why the earth is his: He created the earth: “for he has founded it upon the seas.” This is a bit of a puzzling statement. Why would he lay the foundation of the world on the seas… Really? How can anything laid upon water ever be stable?
The “seas” in scripture typically represent “chaos” so when we read the world is founded on the seas it seems to make no sense until we recognize the chaotic nature of our world because of sin. But David knows that it is the Lord who has laid the world’s foundation, he has sunk them deep, and nothing in this world can move what he has set in place.
But that’s not all he does. He not only created the world; he also keeps it going. Even when the world is “chaotic” like the seas God is holding it together. He is the world’s stable foundation.
In the second part of Psalm 24:2 the word “established” is a present tense verb, and it means God continues to hold all things together. This chaotic world often creates great inner turmoil that causes society to suffer from “overtones of anxiety.” It is because many in his world worship pagan gods who make it impossible to have any peace, but David describes our Sovereign King as the one who does make it possible to not be anxious. Scripture describes how he does this.
We read in Job 38:8-11 – “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘thus far shall you come, and no more farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?” (see also Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3).
How can we avoid “overtones of anxiety”? By remembering that the world is held in nail scarred hands, which will keep me from going crazy. It doesn’t mean there won’t be earthquakes or hurricanes or floods, or terrorism, but it does mean God is always working.
In Genesis 8:22 God gives us a promise of his faithful care: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.” We can be confident that the “Sovereign King” is always present and working to sustain our world that we might not give in to “overtones of anxiety.”
In the second place, God is the Holy King
[Read Psalm 24:3-6]
We have seen the King’s world and now David shows us the King’s hill, and he does it by asking us a question; “who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” What is the “hill” of the Lord? Where is the “hill” of the Lord? In an earthly sense the hill was Mount Zion where the ark of the covenant resided, but more importantly there is a heavenly picture here as well. It is the holy place where God dwells.
When we studied the book of Exodus, we learned about the holy place where only one person could enter. It was a 15x15 room where the ark of the covenant resided. The ark had a pure gold cover with two golden cherubim on each end, their wings spread over the ark, and in that space between these cherubim the presence of God dwelled. Only one man, the high priest could enter into this sanctuary, and only one time a year to make atonement for the sins of Israel. Even before he could enter, he needed to be cleansed by a sacrifice of shed blood.
Who can enter this place? Only those who are clean and pure.
The same is true of ascending the hill of the Lord.
It is a tragic truth that no one can ascend the King’s holy hill because no one has clean hands, or a pure heart. All have lifted their souls to falsehood, and all have spoken deceitfully.
It is the human condition that has plagued all of us since the garden, and how different a time it was in the garden when Adam and Eve could approach God and walk with him, that is until they sinned, and crushed that intimate relationship. We all share in that sinful moment, and the sad reality is that none of us can ascend the hill of the Lord because not one of us has clean hands (actions) or a pure heart (attitudes). We have all lifted our souls to falsehood (idols), and we have all have spoken deceitfully and used our tongues to destroy (see Romans 3:11-18).
The King’s holy hill is heaven where God dwells in all his holiness and glory. Jesus told his disciples in Luke 18 that it’s impossible for anyone to enter God’s kingdom on their own merit, but he said, what is impossible for man is possible for God, and this is the answer to David’s probing question; “who can ascend God’s holy hill”?
Only one. The Son of God, Jesus Christ who clothed himself in our filthy human flesh that he might live a sinless life and take upon his own body our sin, our evil, our wickedness, and our hatred towards God that he might die in our place as the atoning sacrifice by shedding his blood that we might be cleansed, forgiven, and reconciled to the Father. He became the object of God’s wrath that we might become the objects of God’s mercy.
We can never wash our hands enough to be clean, and we can never purify our own hearts enough to be holy. Only the cleansing blood of Christ can do that.
If we are to ascend the hill of the Lord, we must first be cleansed of all our guilty stains, and that through Jesus alone who has made a way for us to ascend, and provided the grace to be holy as he is holy until we make our way up the hill. What is so remarkable is that we can be holy, and we can follow in his steps and make our way up the hill because Jesus has made it possible.
In Psalm 24:5-6 we read of the blessing we receive from God who has declared us righteousness in his Son. We have no righteousness of our own, but in Christ we have been declared righteous and we have been given the gift of salvation that we might enter the holy place for all eternity with the Holy King. This Sovereign King, this Holy King is now approachable, accessible, and willing to be near you and me. What an amazing grace that is, that his creatures can approach his throne.
In the third place, God is the Mighty King
[Read Psalm 24:7-10]
In Matthew 21:1-11 Jesus enters Jerusalem for the last time just prior to his crucifixion. He enters riding a donkey surrounded by crowds of people who shout “Hosanna in highest.” He ascends Mt. Zion as he makes his way to the temple where he overturns the money changers tables, and very soon the shouts of “Hosanna!” are drowned out by shouts of “crucify him!” That ascension to Jerusalem ended in his crucifixion and death. In the incarnation he descended to earth where he was lifted up on a cross to die a humiliating death, and lowered into the grave.
But he did not stay there. He rose again, and soon ascended to heaven to the shouts of honor and praise that we read about here. Every heavenly being rose up and exclaimed Christ’s glory, singing, “He is the Mighty King of glory!”
“Who is this King of glory?” He is the Christ, the Mighty one who defeated sin on the cross, who defeated Satan on the cross, and who defeated death on the cross. This is who the King of glory is. He is mighty to save; he is mighty to protect and preserve his church by his “host” his army until they enter his heavenly home which becomes their heavenly home. We have the mighty King who instructs his army to protect us on our journey to his holy hill.
At the end of John Bunyan’s story Christian’s wife Christiana and her children are making their way to the Celestial city led by Mr. Greatheart who serves as their guide. At one point they come upon a man with a sword drawn and his face all bloody. He identifies himself as Mr. Valiant-for-truth. He is bloody because he had just come through a three-hour battle against Wild-head, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic, who were determined to kill him. Wounded they ran away. At this point Mr. Greatheart examines Mr. Valliant’s sword and calls it a “Jerusalem blade.” This scene is Bunyan’s way of telling his readers that our Christian pilgrimage is a war, a battle. The Christian life is combat and conflict, and his servants get bloodied and beaten up from time to time. It’s at this time we can be fiercely tempted to give up, but we have a mighty King who battles every moment on our behalf.
He is the sovereign and holy and mighty King of glory.
A Song of Response