A Meditation on Psalm 24

Psalm 24
The King of Glory
The earth and everything in it,
the world and its inhabitants,
belong to the Lord;
for He laid its foundation on the seas
and established it on the rivers.
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in His holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not set his mind on what is false,
and who has not sworn
deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek Him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Selah
Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates!
Rise up, ancient doors!
Then the King of glory will come in.
Who is He, this King of glory?
The Lord of Hosts,
He is the King of glory. 
Selah

Reading this passage, I've often been struck by how hopeless it can seem.  

The mountain of God in the psalm is a stand-in for heaven.  The people of Israel often met with God at particular mountains, (e.g. Moses at mount Sinai) which were stand-ins for the actual Holy place, which is heaven.  God does not really dwell on a mountain, but He chose to locate His earthly presence there so that people could approach Him.  

The question David asks here is “who can approach God’s holy place?”  Then he lays out some qualifiers: the one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not lied.  The troubling thing is, we know from both the old and new testaments that none of us have clean hands and a pure heart.  None of us meet the standards David sets for approaching God's presence.  

What’s perhaps even worse, David says that he is describing the generation of people who seek God’s face.  Another of David’s psalms, psalm 53, says that God searched the earth for a person who seeks Him, and found no one.  Paul echoes this psalm in the book of Romans, where he says that no one is righteous, no one is pure, and no one seeks God (Romans 3).  

So who can ascend the hill of the Lord?  Only one man: Jesus!

Jesus made a way for us to enter God’s presence.  The book of Hebrews tells us that not only has Jesus made a way for us to approach God in His holy place, but that the mountain we approach is not even the same mountain that the people of ancient Israel approached.  The writer of Hebrews says that we have not come to a mountain of smoke and fire, but instead we have come to the city of God (Hebrews 12).

So the answer to the “who” in David's question is actually Jesus and all those He has made righteous.  

I’m of the persuasion that David had a unique insight that often led him to think in a messianic way.  Many of his psalms prophecy Jesus in some way, and I think this one does, too.  

See in the last section, the king of Glory.  David anticipated that even though we are unable to approach God, that God would invade our lives.  "Lift up your heads you gates, rise up, ancient doors!"  We were unable to approach God on our own, but God has come to us in strength. 

So, we whose lives have been invaded by the everlasting God, the God of heaven’s armies, are the generation who can seek God’s face, because of Jesus.  Now, we look at the world around us, and we see there are many gates which are still shut up to the King of Glory.  The work is not done.  The world has not yet recognized its King of Glory.  We look around us and we see the injustice in the world, we see sadness and suffering, we see that the world has not come in line with what God calls good.  So, let’s join David in saying “open up you ancient gates, that the King of Glory may enter!”

-by Jesse Hill