Who will approach God? Who is the King of Glory? These are questions David poses in Psalm 24, one of the Messianic Psalms.
He begins with recognizing who God is. God is the creator of everything there is, and He possesses and has authority over all that He created.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Though the nations all around David had their own gods in various images and likenesses, David recognizes that there is only one, creator God. One God made the heavens and the earth, and there is no god like Him. In that context he asks the question:
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
How does one approach a God like that? How do created beings, such as ourselves, approach the God who created us? David understands that we can only approach such a God on His own terms:
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
Only a person with clean hands and a pure heart can approach a God like that. Only a person who trusts in such a God, alone, can approach Him. Only a person who understands truth and is free of deceit.
Can any of us say that we meet these conditions?
If we think honestly on these things, we have to realize that we don’t. The truth is that no one is righteous, not even one person. (Psalm 14:3; Psalm 53:3; and Romans 3:10)
Think of David, the very person who wrote this Psalm. He didn’t meet those conditions, and he certainly knew it. He is one of the most flawed people of all the people of faith in the Bible. He knew where he stood with God.
The problem: we want clean hands and a pure hear; we want to trust in God alone, and we want to hold to nothing but the truth. The truth is, though, that no one meets these conditions. No one can approach a holy God!
Yet, this Psalm exalts in the anticipation of connecting with such a God – a God who made and possesses the universe, a God who can only be approached with cleans hands, a pure heart, with singleness of devotion and in the fullness of truth. This is because David anticipates something. And this is where the Psalm shifts:
They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.
The resolution to the problem is that we do not approach God: He approaches us. We must receive from God his blessing and vindication. It is nothing we can ascend to, nothing we can achieve.
God knows this well, and He provided a way. As with Abraham for whom God provided a ram caught in the thicket to sacrifice in place of his son, Isaac, God has provided for us what is necessary to clear the way for us to receive Him. Through Christ, we are made holy, clean and new.[i]
The Psalm is considered “Messianic” because David anticipates our need for God to come to us, to provide for us. He says:
Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Thus, David exalts not in the prospect that someone might ascend to heaven, but in the anticipation that God will descend to us. God meets us where we are. But there is more to this than God simply meeting us where we are: we need to be ready to receive Him.
Before the church service that inspires this article this morning, I read an article in my newsfeed: How the Capitol attacks helped spread Christian nationalism in the extreme right, from the Religious News Service. It may seem like a strange tie in to Psalm 24, but I hope you will stick with me to see the connection.Continue reading “Who Is God? How Can We Approach Him? What Do the Answers Mean for Us Today?”