July 9, 2021
Bonnie Lynn Seiber
Retired Clergy, St. Mark UMC, Clinton
Tennessee Valley District
Psalm 24 (NIV)
1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.
7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
Psalm 24 is what we refer to as a call and response Psalm. These Psalms are the type that the church uses as responsive readings. In Israel in Old Testament time, worship could be extremely dramatic. Pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for a festival would march in a procession. Crossing the Kidron Valley, the procession would stop at the gate of the temple courtyard. The choir would sing, “Who is the King of glory?” The priest inside would reply, “The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.” One suggestion is that this Psalm was used when the Ark of the Covenant was carried into the temple after a battle; however, this fact is not stated anywhere in the Old Testament.
The Psalm is divided into three sections. The first section (verses 1-2) establishes God as the creator of all things. Section two (verses 3-6) tells us who may enter the presence of God. I find this section a bit troubling. Only those who have a pure heart can approach God. I went online and found that many people were also troubled by this idea. Perhaps the clean hands refer to the ritualistic washing of the hands and faces before entering the temple. But the requirement for a pure heart seems to prevent sinners from coming to the mercy seat. Maybe the author of the article I read is saying that no one should ask for forgiveness of sin if you do not really intend to change your life. To enter the temple of the Lord of hosts, the worshiper should be a person of integrity. He must be pure in actions and intentions. His motives and deeds are to be right. He is neither to be proud nor deceitful. Do we always meet these standards when we come to worship?
Verses 7-10 end the Psalm by reminding us that our God is eternal and holy. God is both the creator and the redeemer. We are to respond to God in worship and gratitude.
We are coming out of an incredibly stressful time. People are grateful to have survived. Worshipers are beginning to return to our churches. We come with joyful Alleluia on our lips. We are glad to spend an hour worshiping and praising God. But then we must go out and face the world, a world seemingly gone mad. Every day we hear of people being shot over minor things such as road rage or arguments over the wearing of masks. We want to shout, “Where is God when all this is happening? Why is sin taking over?” The answer is God has not gone anywhere. God is still in control. Psalm 24 reminds us that God is the creator and redeemer. As God watched over the Hebrew people in the Old Testament, he also watches over our nation. God is big enough and powerful enough to protect and defend us. Praise God.
Gracious God, you have loved us and protected us through this past year. When we are concerned for this world, keep reminding us that you created it and us and that you are still creating and protecting. Let us always turn to you is faith in time of trouble. Amen.