Psalm 24 – The Earth is the Lord’s

This psalm was written for the celebration of  the delivery of the Ark of the Covenant to the newly captured city of Jerusalem.  After David had captured Jerusalem and built a house for himself and everything had settled down, he decided that it was not right for him to live in a house made of cedar and to allow the house of the God of Israel to remain a farmer’s threshing floor.  He announced that he would build a temple for Yahweh, but Yahweh had other thoughts and wouldn’t permit it.  Instead, David built a new tabernacle in Jerusalem so the Ark could be properly housed.1

Psalm 24 is the oldest of the introit psalms and was sung at the entrance of the Temple2 and is often included in services today that dedicate churches or other special services.

1. {A Psalm of David.} The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

The writer declares that God is the absolute owner of the earth and everything that is contained in, on and above the earth – this is intended to contrast Yahweh with the deities of the nations around Israel that were  essentially confined to the borders of the country in which they were worshiped.

The first clause speaks of the earth and all of its components: the oceans and seas, the valleys and the mountains and hills, the seasons and the rain and snow.  The second clause speaks of the inhabitants of creation and of the habitable earth: the people, the animals, the fishes and such.  It all belongs to God, every molecule in the air and every atom in the diamond. One could perhaps think of it this way: the earth is the globe and the inanimate objects and the world is the living, breathing creatures.

2. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.

God caused the waters to be gathered together and let the dry land appear.3 It is the earth that has risen from the seas (or the seas receded from the earth) and upon that was the world founded. As far as floods are concerned, they can really only happen on dry ground.  Founded refers to creation and established refers to preservation or continuation.

3. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?

This question has come up in a previous psalm4 in similar form.  Generically, the question is: Who is worthy to enter the temple, the house of God, and therefore, who is worthy to enter paradise? The question needs to be asked at this point, prior to actually entering through the gates of the doors of the temple, because even though the doors are of the worldly temple built by man, they symbolize the entrance into paradise.

The question is intended to kick-start the self-examining processes of the congregation, trying to get them to reflect upon their own worthiness in the light of what is required for one to advance to the rewards that God offers.

Verse four gives us the answer:

4. He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

We see this repeated in Isaiah 33:15-17.

Only the pure in heart will see Jehovah, for He is purity. But God cannot be in the presence of iniquity and purity is not something that we, alone, can accomplish. But we have Jesus. Jesus had inherent purity when He was on earth and we will ascend to the throne room through our faith in Him because we receive purity that is given to us by that faith in Him.

Vanity is falsehood. Vanity is chasing after the things that this world finds to be of value. Lifting one’s soul to vanity is the same as doing something because it looks good or because we think our actions will gain approval or will elevate us in another’s eyes. What I visualize is a type of sacrifice as if we are offering our soul to vanity.  Not a good thing!

Ecclesiastes says that everything is vanity: Everything is false!

When a soul is deep in vanity, it is only a short jump for the tongue to swear to the deceit, that is, to support the vanity embraced by the soul through the use of lies. The LORD will not allow such a person steeped in vanity and deception to abide in His house.

Fulfilling the requirements in verse four will assure us of receiving the blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of salvation as promised in verse five.

5. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

We have some parallelism going on here that I would like to point out, since we looked at parallelism previously.  The phrase, “blessing from the LORD” is the first phrase of interest and “righteousness from the God of his salvation” is the second phrase. In this verse, then, “blessing” and “righteousness” are in parallel and “LORD” and “God of his salvation” are in parallel. The blessing bestowed on us is complete righteousness – which we cannot achieve on our own.

6. This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.

This verse is a little confusing.  The switch from third person to second person followed with using the vocative on top of it is confusing to me.  This would be the use of the pronoun “him” and, following that, the use of the words “thy face” and ” O Jacob.” At first reading, one might think that the generation that seeks Him (God) also seeks the face of Jacob, as if he and God were equal. But, immediately,  something inside us knows this does not fit with the rest of the teachings of the Bible. Jacob was just a man – a very important man – but still a man, so why would we seek the face of Jacob?

“This is the generation that seeks him” identifies the nature of the generation that is willing to sacrifice worldly things for clean hands and a pure heart and who do not sacrifice their souls to vanity and deceit.  It is not necessarily David’s generation any more than it is yours or mine. Here, generation might mean people who are scattered throughout the timeline of history.  “Him” in this place is naming God.

“O Jacob” is the vocative form of Jacob.  But why Jacob? Why one of the patriarchs of the people of Israel? Jacob is used as a type (symbol) for the people of Israel.  When you read this, especially in the poetic and prophetic books, it means the people of Israel, just as the use of the word “land” may mean the people of Israel.

This leaves us with “that seek thy face.” Is the speaker suddenly turning to “him” (God) and saying the generation seeks “your (thy) face,” or what? It is strange and it is probably a curiosity of ancient Hebrew, but I think it must be interpreted that way. It is the only theologically correct reading.

So another way of saying this verse might go something like this:

O Israel, the generation that seeks God will be a generation of clean hands and pure hearts and will not be drawn to the falsehoods and vanities that the world has to offer, they will pursue God’s face.

The pause of singing and instruments is for emphasis: a quiet time for the congregation to reflect on each person’s own heart to arrive at a conclusion of where they stand in relation to God.

7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

Verse seven (and verse 9) gives us the picture of the entrance of the King of Glory into his abode. Here is a call for the gates to open and for the everlasting (everlasting = heavenly, paradise) doors be lifted up. We are given a clue that the one who enters is not an ordinary man or king because we are talking heavenly gates.

But who is the King of Glory? That is what is asked in verse eight and is also answered in that verse.

8. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.

Yahweh or Jehovah, the Self-Existent One; the One who is “strong and mighty” and is “mighty in battle” is the King of Glory.

9.  Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.

10. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

And finally, the end of the psalm is a crescendo at the end of a cantata like Handle’s Messiah. Again, the singers are exclaiming in a loud voice, nearly a shout, that the King of Glory is Jehovah, the LORD of the armies (hosts) of heaven and that there is no king that is more glorious, that He is, indeed the King of Glory. I hear the voices of the congregation and the singing of the heavenly host and it is loud and vibrates everything to the very core and then it stops.

And the Selah is deafening.

 

 

 


1. 2 Samuel 6.1-15:  David’s tabernacle was very different from the tabernacle that Moses built and it is important to understand the significance of it and what means to us today. A very good article by Steve Pruitt can be found at http://www.justworship.com/articles.php?category=On%20Worship.

2. Jamison, Fausset and Brown

3. Genesis 1.9,10

4. Psalm 15:1

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