Summary: How could we ever be worthy enough to enter into the presence of God to offer our worship?
Worthy to Worship the One Who is Worthy
Psalm 24 is titled like many of the Psalms, “a Psalm of David. It was written about three thousand years ago, but its message beckons to us today as well. It is part of consider the third of a set of psalms (22,23,24) which have been labeled, “The Cross”, “The Crook”, and “The Crown”. These psalms have been seen as descriptive of the Person and work of Christ. Let’s take a look.
Exposition of the Text
The Psalm begins with God’s sovereign claim over the world. It does not belong to us. Neither does it belong to Satan or anything else. It belongs to Yahweh alone. This verse hints at creation as it refers to God’s founding it upon the seas and the waters. Because he has established order from chaos, He is Lord over it and us as well. God has a rightful claim on us which beckons everyone to respond in worship. This is doubly true of God’s people. In fact, some commentators see the Hebrew (Ah-retz) as referring to the Land of Israel that God has established from among the chaos of the surrounding nations which is often metaphorically rendered “waters” or “seas”. If this narrower rendering is used, it talks about God’s covenant promises to Israel. This Hebrew word can be translated either way, so it cannot be clearly determined what David is referring to. But if we use the analogy of Scripture in comparing this Scripture to the rest of Scripture, then both statements express God’s truth.
The next section of the Psalm beginning with verse 3 starts with the question: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD, or who can enter His Holy Place. This is a question of introspection. In David’s day, the Temple of Solomon, his son had not been built. Because of this, some think that David could not have been the author. It is true that the Temple stood on the Temple mount, so coming there to worship would involve climbing the hill. But this would also been true for Shiloh, where the tabernacle stood in the early days of David before he captured Jerusalem. At that time, he took the Ark there, having to stop at the threshing floor or Ornan the Jebusite. That, too, was on the top of Mt. Zion. So there is no reason to assume that David did not write this because the Temple seemed a more magnificent referent to this Psalm. If the truth be told, whether tabernacle or temple, they are but pointers to God’s Holy Place in heaven.
Is the one who is able to ascend the hill to God’s Holy Place able because of means of physical fitness? Verse four tells us that God has a quite different qualification to stand there. One has to be morally pure. In other words, the worshiper must be worthy to offer worship (worth ship) to God. This is not place for people who have unclean hearts, who demonstrate this in false oaths and deceiving God and neighbor. The one who is pure in heart is the only one who can come there and be blessed. There is an implication that those who try to enter with unclean hearts will incur God’s curse.
Verse six makes an ironic statement. It begins with “This is Jacob”. The name “Jacob” means deceiver, which is the very opposite of what God requires of someone to enter. If someone who was what the name were to seek God in His Holy Place with a name like that, would God even let such a person enter in? There is a saying, like father, like son”. The nation of Israel was more like Jacob than Jacob’s transformed name “Israel”. They might seek the Face of God, but how could they even approach without reproach?
It would seem that the entire human race would be disqualified from entering through the gates of the City of God, but now the voice cries out for the gates of the city to be lifted. The King of Glory is coming. He is worthy to enter into the Holy Place of God. What would have happened at any earthly tabernacle could only be a dim reflection of the scene here. The choirs may have beckoned out this psalm back and forth in antiphon. At the time of the magnificent Temple of Solomon, it would certainly have been an impressive show which moved people’s hearts to worship. But only One could enter this perfect heavenly Temple. To Him, the gates would be lifted and the doors opened. Hallelujah, the King of Glory is worthy!
The next verse asks: “Who is this King of Glory? The answer comes back that He is Yahweh of Hosts (armies). The one who can enter bears the Divine name. He and he alone is able to enter the throne room and sit between the Cherubim. This One is so majestic that no earthly image in the shadow Temple or Tabernacle on earth can represent Him. The whole sequence of asking about the identity of the One who is worthy to have the gates lifted and the doors opened for is repeated and answered in a parallelism to more fully define and emphasize the character of this person.