May 21, 2014

Tom Lowe

Psalm 24 (KJV)



Title: The King Comes Home

A psalm of David.


Psalm 24 (KJV)


1 The earth is the LORD'S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.




This psalm speaks of the coming of the Chief Shepherd. Tradition says it was composed by David and sung when he brought up the ark from the house of Obed-edom at Kirjath-jearim to mount Zion (2 Sam 6:12-23). The ark, according to tradition was built by Bezalel for Moses in the wilderness of Sinai (Ex. 37:1-9), signified God’s presence in the midst of His people. For seven months the Philistines had kept it under lock and key until finally, deciding it was too hot to hold, they returned it to Israel. It had resided at Kirjath-jearim on the western border of Benjamin in the rugged wooded highlands during the days of Samuel and Saul.


David himself had made one desperate attempt to bring it to Jerusalem after he had rested the fortress of Zion from the Jebusites. But now the time had come and the ark began its journey home. The historian tells us of the music and dancing, of the shouting and sacrifices which marked the triumphal entry of the ark into Jerusalem. Psalm 24 gives us the anthem which heralded the ark along the way.


When the temple came to be built in Jerusalem various psalms were sung as part of the daily liturgy. On Monday it was Psalm 48, Tuesday Psalm 82, Wednesday Psalm 94, Thursday Psalm 81, Friday Psalm 93, and on the Sabbath Psalm 92. On the first day of the week they sang Psalm 24. The very day Jesus tore away the bars of death and marched in triumph from the tomb the Temple choir was scheduled to sing this victorious Psalm.


The psalm was sung in a responsive way, that is, one person or choir would sing and another would respond. It has been suggested that it was sung by the chorus and solo voices of the procession. Josephus, the Jewish historian, says that seven choirs of singers and musicians marched before the ark as it was brought to Mount Zion where David had prepared a tabernacle for it until the temple was built.


This psalm was part of the religious ceremonies held during the Jewish New Year to mark the entrance of the ark into the sanctuary. The ceremony was held year after year in such a manner that everyone could take part, from king to commoner, in a renewal of loyalty to God. This noble hymn is one of the most exalted and majestic in the Book of psalms and has found a home in the anthems and solos of Judaism and Christianity.


It must have been wonderful to have heard this psalm sung in David’s day.


Some commentators connect Psalm 24 with our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. For years, some Christian denominations have assigned this psalm to be read on Ascension Day, the fortieth day after Easter. Christians see Jesus Christ as “the Lord of glory,” first of all returning to heaven after His passion (Eph. 4:8{5]), and then returning in glory to establish His kingdom (Matt. 25:31{6]). This explains the repetition of “Lift up your heads” in verses 7 and 9.


There is another way to apply this psalm and frankly I love to think of it in this way—that is, that it looks forward to a glorious event which occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation. The thunders of God’s judgments have ceased, the Lord Jesus has returned to earth and has put down all His foes, and Christ is now marching to Jerusalem to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. This is a triumphal procession as the world has never seen. Even as the onlookers were startled by the depths of the Savior’s suffering, so they are now speechless at the height of His glory.





Chorus of the Procession

1 The earth is the LORD'S, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.


Verses 1 and 2 are a hymn of praise to the Lord and in the first line it celebrates Him as the owner of the physical earth and all that that includes— in particular, the habitable world and all who live in it. “The earth and man is the LORD'S”.  David speaks of Him again as the Creator. This earth belongs to Him by right of creation and redemption. The earth does not belong to the Republicans or the Democrats. It does not belong to the president or the Pope. It does not belong to the communists or the United Nations. Nor does it belong to the devil, who is a usurper and will be thrown out. “All the earth is mine,” (Ex. 19:5), says the Creator, but in His goodness He has shared it with us. He is possessor of heaven and earth (Ge. 14:19, 22{7]), and we are guests on His planet, stewards of all He has given us to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17{8]) and to make use of. There are so many people today who want to run this earth, but it literally belongs to God. But why does God own it? The answer is given in verse 2.



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


On the third day of creation God said, “. . . Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas: and God saw that it was good” (Ge. 1:9-10). When God gathered the waters together, submerged land appeared out of the water. It was life out of death, and it speaks of resurrection and order. God reduced the watery chaos to order and firmly founded the earth upon that order. Once there existed floods, “the fountains of the great deep” (Ge. 7:11), “the waters under the earth” (Ex. 20:4), sometimes viewed as a crouching dragon controlling the springs (Deut. 33:13{1]). But upon those vast chaotic floods the Lord imposed His own mighty control and “established” the earth. We can sense here features of the combat between those seas and floods† and the Lord, which we have seen finally portrayed in Psalm 93. That combat forms the background of this brief hymn.


†By the seas and floods he means the whole collection of waters, as well as the seas and rivers running into it, as well as the great abyss of waters contained in the bowels of the earth.




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


Now it is true that the earth is the Lord’s, that every nook and cranny is His,


He owns the cattle on a thousand hills

The wealth in every mine:

He owns the rivers, and the rocks and the rills,

The sun and stars that shine.


But there is one spot on earth to which He holds special claim—the land of Israel. The Palestinian Arabs, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, and the PLO say it belongs to them and are prepared to perpetrate any act of terrorism to advertise their claim. It doesn’t belong to them at all! It belongs to God. It is called His land, and He has deeded it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to Isaac, not Ishmael; to the Jew, not the Arab. No world conference is ever going to change that—no summit meeting of the superpowers. The land of Israel is God’s land.


There is one spot of land which the Lord has singled out—the city of Jerusalem. The United Nations can declare Jerusalem an “International City,” but God says that Jerusalem is His. He calls it “the city of the Great king.”


In Jerusalem there are two special spots: the hill and the holy place. The “hill” is Mount Zion crowned in David’s day by the great Jebusite fortress, sometimes called “the citadel of David.” The “holy place” is Mount Moriah, where later the Temple was to stand. God claims both these places in Jerusalem for Himself.


Verse 3 is in the form of a question, and the answer is in the next verse. With the mind’s eye we can visualize the procession stopping at the entrance to the tabernacle (and later, to the Temple) where they recite in singing tones the question of who may be permitted to enter the sacred area.



Answering soloist

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


From within the sanctuary, a voice chants the answer and states the requirements of the true worshipper. We note that the requirements are not: (a) “Have you kept the Law?”, or (b) “Have you performed the required sacrifices?” The qualifications have to do with a persons will. He must not desire to possess anything which God hates or calls evil. When he takes an oath he must swear in sincerity with no deceit in his heart—he must have clean hands and a pure heart—The hands are stained by such sins as murder, theft, taking a bribe, greed for personal gain; the heart is made impure by evil thoughts (Matt. 15:19{13]). If the only ones who are going to ascend into the hill of the Lord are those who have “clean hands and a pure heart, and those who have not “lifted up” their souls “unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully,” I guess I won’t be there. That leaves me out. But I AM going to be there, because I am going to be there in Christ. He has undertaken to present me before the throne of grace in His present priestly office because I have trusted Him as my Savior. I read of an ancient inscription on the walls of a tomb from the Old Kingdom of Egypt: “He who enters here must be pure, and he must purify himself as one purifies himself for the temple of the great God.”


The Levites carrying the ark had to be ceremonially clean, and God’s people must be clean if they wish to worship the King and please Him. “Clean hands” speak of righteous conduct (Isa. 1:15-16, 18{9]), and a “pure heart” of godly character and motives (Matt. 5:8{10]). “Vanity” refers to the worship of idols (worthless things”) and “swearing deceitfully” to all kinds of deception, especially false witness in court.


It might seem that these people qualify for the kingdom due to their good character, but this is not the case. Their character is the result of their new birth from above, for unless a man is born again, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5{14]). These people, then, are the noble saints who have come through the Great Tribulation and have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.



Chorus and Solo Voices

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


Of course, the qualifications announced in verse 4 are not the description of a believer. All they point to is that the intending worshipper should want to come in, even though he undoubtedly remained a sinner. But back a thousand years earlier, that is all this God of Jacob ever asked of Jacob, not perfection of life, but just sincerity of purpose. That is sufficient for God to grant a person his blessing. The blessing is the gift of salvation, the righteousness of God (Ge. 15:6{11]). However, nobody on God’s earth is able to meet these standards (v. 4). “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Good works and religious character cannot save us. The only way we can enter into God’s presence is through the merits of Jesus Christ, which means that we must repent of our sins and put our faith in Him.



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


The procession has accepted the priestly challenge (v. 4), and verses 5 and 6 describe the blessing given those who meet the requirements—they enter, and as they move into the inner court, the priests pronounce a blessing upon the entering worshippers, who have come to the sanctuary where the Lord, Jacob’s (Israel’s) God, dwells.


To “seek God’s face” means to have an audience with the King (Ge. 44:23{12]), and this is now possible through the work of Christ on the cross (Heb. 10:1-25). God’s righteousness is a gift, not a reward for good works (Rom. 3:23-4:9).


“Them that seek Him” is a designation that may also be applied to the citizens of the Millennium—people who have received grace from the God who loves the unworthy.


Now picture this procession as it enters the sanctuary singing:



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


Then comes the most exalted and colorful part of the psalm, which glorifies the Lord as “King of glory” and “is a strain from primitive times in Israel.” It represents vividly a greatly beloved ritual that had its distinctive place in ceremonies connected with the annual enthronement of the Lord at the Hebrew New year. The ark was taken from the most holy place to the foot of Mount Zion, where the procession formed. It was the most sacred symbol of the presence of the Lord, the throne of the invisible King. The ark was the glory of Israel (1 Sam. 4:21-22{2]). The King of glory was the Lord, Israel’s spiritual Monarch, enthroned above the cherubim (Ps. 80:1{3]).The ceremony which was about to be enacted was one such as was performed as an integral part of many festivals in ancient Babylon, the ceremony of the opening of the gate by which entrance into the Temple was granted to the people. We may be confident that the same was true for Israel (Ps. 100:4{4]). The prototype of this procession with the ark may be seen in 2 Samuel 6:12-17{18], and especially in 1 Kings 8:1-7 (Also see Josh. 3:14).


The ark was carried by the priests, and the worshipping throngs follow in a joyful mood and festive spirit, for in such a ceremony, as was the case in ancient Babylon, the populace participates with tremendous enthusiasm. The procession reaches the ancient Temple gates, on which are present the marks of the centuries since the days of Solomon. The throngs of worshippers who are seeking entrance call out their appeal to the gates. The gates, as in Isaiah 14:31{15] are addressed. They must lift their heads high because “the high and lofty One . . . whose name is holy” (Isa. 51:15), and whose “glorious throne was set on high from the beginning” (Jer. 17:12), is about to enter! These are bold personifications indicating that the city gates needed to stretch themselves to make way for the awesome entrance of the great King. By doing so, they too participate in worshipping Him. Yet the Great King is represented only by that little six-foot box which was known as the Ark of the Covenant. Yet that little Ark was sufficient for God’s purposes. For the whole gracious plan of the King of glory was represented in what that box stood for, just as, in later years, that same gracious plan was made known in full to the whole world in the person or the Son of God.


The administration of an ancient city was transacted at the city gates, so the gates were to those people what the city hall is to citizens in the western world today. David was commanding the whole city to welcome the Lord and give honor to Him.


There is a pause; then from within the temple booms the sound of the priestly choir:



8a Who is this King of glory?


And the throng without, with exultant enthusiasm, thunder forth the answer:



8b The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.


Then again there is a pause, and in a moment the appeal is renewed by the seeking pilgrims:



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


“Lift up your heads, O ye gates” may refer to the lintels (archways) above the gates which is too low to receive the “high and exalted One” who is about to pass through them, or that the gates built by the hands of men are not adequate to admit the mighty God. “Everlasting doors” implies that the Temple and its gates have stood unharmed for a long period of time.


            The challenge comes once again from the priestly choir within:



10a Who is this King of glory?


When the response comes, the ancient name of God, already current in Judah at least as early as the eighth century b.c. (Isa. 6:3{16]), is thundered out by the entrance-seeking throng. It is a strain out of Israel’s ancient militant faith:



10b The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.


And at the first mention of this distinctive name of Israel’s God the Temple gates swing open, and the worshippers enter, led by the sacred symbol of His presence.


I think this passage illustrates two events. First of all this is a picture of when the Lord returned to heaven. It is also a picture of Him coming to earth again. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in” (v. 9). Who is He? The world does not know, but this psalm gives us the answer. The King of glory is “The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle” (v. 8b). Then the gates are told to open up so that the King of glory might enter in. Well, He is not “in” today. The world has rejected Him. “Who is this King of glory? (v. 10a). He is the Lord of hosts, He is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. And He is the King of glory, and the “hosts” are the armies both of Israel and of the heavenly beings. The psalmist writes “Selah” at the conclusion—that is, think on this for a little while. This will bless your heart, my friend.


As children of God we belong to three worlds: the world of creation around us, the world of new creation within us (2 Co. 5:17{16]), and “the world to come” of the wonderful final creation that will be our home for eternity (Rev. 21-22). It would be a good experience in our understanding of the grace of God if we were to portray these ancient words outside the closed doors of our own local church. In doing so, moreover, we would be reminding ourselves that this psalm also points forward to the time when the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem, to use the picture language of the Book of Revelation, will be thrown open in eternity and the whole world of men, women and children alike will be invited to enter in.


Someone has said:


“This psalm is accomplished in us when Jesus enters our hearts as our King to reign, and it will have its full realization when the earth and its population welcomes Him as its Lord.




Scripture reference and special notes


{1] (Deut. 33:13) And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath,


{2] (1 Sam. 4:21-22) And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken.


{3] (Ps. 80:1) Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.


{4] (Ps. 100:4) Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.


{5] (Eph. 4:8) Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.


{6] (Matt. 25:31) When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:


{7] (Ge. 14:19, 22) And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth,


{8] (1 Tim. 6:17) Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;


{9] (Isa. 1:15-16, 18) And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.


{10] (Matt. 5:8) Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.


{11] (Ge. 15:6) And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.


{12] (Ge. 44:23) And thou saidst unto thy servants, Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more.


{13] (Matt. 15:19) For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:


{14] (John 3:3, 5) Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.


{15] (Isaiah 14:31) Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.


{16] (Isa. 6:3) And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.


{17] (2 Co. 5:17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.


{18] (2 Samuel 6:12-17) And it was told king David, saying , The LORD hath blessed the house of Obededom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom into the city of David with gladness. And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings. And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. And they brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it: and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.