Psalm 24 (New King James Version)
A Psalm of David.
Many think this Psalm was written upon the occasion of the entrance of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem during the reign of David (2 Samuel 6). Yet Spurgeon correctly wrote, “The eye of the Psalmist looked, however, beyond the typical upgoing of the ark to the sublime ascension of the King of glory.”
1 The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
2 For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
There are two eminences in the city of Jerusalem, Mount Zion with the royal palace to the south, and Mount Moriah with the temple site to the north: these are the hill and the house/place of the psalm. The candidate to take possession of them must be both a king and a priest.
–all text in red from T. Ernest Wilson
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
Here are four moral qualifications required of the person worthy to occupy the hill and the house.
The first applicant was Satan. At our Lord’s temptation in the wilderness, he claimed to have possession of all the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them (Luke 4:5-6). But clearly that was a usurper’s claim and he certainly does not fulfill the credentials or qualifications.
Then we have the four great Gentile world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, with the names of Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander, and Augustus Caesar. In more modern times there have been Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. When we compare them with the required moral qualifications, we see how far short they come.
Adolf Hitler boasted that he would found an empire that would last a thousand years. Does he have clean hands? They are stained with the blood of six million Jews cruelly done to death in the gas ovens of Europe. Does Nero, the Roman emperor have a pure heart? He was a human monster who murdered his own mother and who killed his wife with a kick when she was pregnant with his unborn child.
Napoleon lifted up his soul unto vanity. When he was being crowned emperor, it was suggested to him that the pope should be invited to perform the ceremony. This he disdainfully refused, and with inflated pride, set the crown on his own head.
Stalin swore deceitfully when he signed political alliances and later broke them. He, too, is said to have been responsible for the planned extermination of eleven million persons in the Ukraine and other parts of Russia.
Certainly none of these would-be rulers fulfill the moral qualifications to occupy the throne of world dominion. But let us think of another Man—Jesus of Nazareth. Does He meet the standard?
Did He have clean hands? His hands were pure, powerful, pierced, and priestly hands. They were laid in compassion on the leper, on the blind, and on the heads of little children while He blessed them.
Did He have a pure heart? He was sinless and impeccable. There was no traitor within the gates of His mind or heart to open the door to the tempter. He could throw out the challenge to the world: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:46). There was no answer to that challenge.
Was His soul lifted up unto vanity? He could say: “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). Pride was Satan’s original sin. He reached up, but Jesus stooped down to the death of the cross.
Did He ever swear deceitfully? He was truth personified. He could say: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6).
All the political leaders who have ever appeared in this world have failed the moral test: the only One who has come up to the standard is Jesus of Nazareth. He is the only perfect moral Person the world has ever seen.
5 He shall receive blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
“Ancient rabbinical sources tell us that, in the Jewish liturgy, Psalm 24 was always used in worship on the first day of the week. The first day of the week is our Sunday. So, putting these facts together, we may assume that these were the words being recited by the temple priests at the very time the Lord Jesus Christ mounted a donkey and ascended the rocky approach to Jerusalem.”
–James Montgomery Boice
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you 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
When our Lord came in humiliation at His first advent, He was designated “King of the Jews.” Such was His title in rejection. In His manifestation in the millennium, He will be King of kings and Lord of lords. But in relation to His people, He is the King of glory. He will be the Priest-King, “a Priest upon His throne, and He shall bear the glory” (Zechariah 6:12-13).
HERE is “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” from Handel’s Messiah. Performed by the Engelbrekts Chamber Choir and members of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Bengt Eklund, Conductor.
Concert in Engelbrektskyrkan, Stockholm, December 16, 2012