In meditating on Psalm 24 today, I was struck by a number of points that seemed to warrant my writing them down. Psalm 24 is a messianic psalm which contains the victorious ascension of the Lord Jesus after His resurrection, as well as the veiled gospel that tells of how the Lord imputes righteousness to His people. I have chosen to present the study in four points, namely:
- A momentous question;
- An impossible requirement;
- A victorious Savior;
- A redeemed people.
We will see as we make our way through Psalm 24 that, even though obviously messianic (meaning evidently about the coming Messiah Jesus Christ), the psalm leaves Jesus and the gospel of salvation veiled or concealed. This is of necessity, for when David wrote this psalm, God had not yet revealed the fullness of His redemptive plan and had not yet sent His Son into the world. Psalm 24, then, drops clues about the Messiah and about the gospel that have since been fulfilled. This “gospel-veiled” and “Messiah-concealed” ideas will be a large part of our study.
A MOMENTOUS QUESTION
“Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD and who may stand in His holy place?” (24:3) Here is a variant of THE question for every fallen man. “What must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30)” “What shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:19)” “Then who can be saved? (Matthew 19:25)” There is no more important question that can be asked and no more crucial answer that may be sought. All of us have been separated from the Lord because of our sins (Isaiah 59:1-2) and we must find a way back to His holy place. But who is qualified to approach the LORD? Who may stand in the presence of the consuming fire? (Hebrews 12:29)
AN IMPOSSIBLE REQUIREMENT
The psalmist provides an answer to the momentous question, but it does not appear to be very helpful. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and who has not sworn deceitfully.” (24:4) Alas, on this basis I am disqualified from His holy hill, for my hands are not clean and my heart is not pure. Also, I have often lifted up my soul to falsehood and I have many times sworn deceitfully. I have failed to keep the Law and have instead transgressed. Is there any means of cleansing for me? Is there any path to righteousness? Has forgiveness been forever forfeited?
A VICTORIOUS SAVIOR
The final verses of the psalm trumpet the triumph of the victorious heavenly King. The “gates” and the “doors” (24:7, 9) are certainly the gates of heaven and the psalmist leaves no doubt as to the identity of the King of glory: “The LORD (YHWH) strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle (25:8).” Then further, “The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory (v. 10).” But notice carefully that the King of glory, the LORD is coming into heaven. Twice the doors and the gates are commanded to lift up so “that the King of glory may come in (v. 7, 9).” Now, how is this possible? For if the King of glory is now coming into heaven, it must mean that at some point the King of glory must have LEFT heaven. When in the Bible is there a time that the LORD leaves heaven and later returns? The answer is that here in this passage is concealed the journey of the Son of God from heaven to earth and back again. That journey included the Incarnation, when God the Son took on human flesh to accomplish the Atonement on the cross. After accomplishing His mission of atonement, Jesus was then gloriously resurrected and ascended to heaven to re-enter heaven’s gates as the victorious Savior. The King of glory is coming into heaven (v. 7, 9) as the LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Jesus Christ has accomplished the mission (John 17:4; 19:30) and has vanquished the enemy (1 John 3:8) and is coming back as the conquering King. This psalm, then, is describing the coronation of King Jesus after His victory on the cross.
But there is yet much more about Jesus here in this psalm. Not only did the Lord Jesus purchase atonement for His people and ascend to heaven as the glorious King, but He also perfectly kept the Law of God while He was on the earth. Jesus has perfectly clean hands and an immaculately pure heart (24:4), “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22).” Thus, Jesus has met “the impossible requirement” (see above) and His perfect righteousness is now willingly and joyfully (Luke 15:7, 10) given to “the (entire) generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face – even Jacob (24:6).”
A REDEEMED PEOPLE
Now we can see how it is that we are allowed to ascend into the hill of the LORD (v.3). The one who has repented of their sins and who has placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the same as the one here described as “the generation of those who seek Him (v. 6a).” This “generation” is the redeemed people of God, the ones who will “receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation (v. 5).” Notice especially that these people receive righteousness from God. We know from the New Testament that this righteousness is imputed to us. Because we seek the Lord Jesus in repentance and in faith, His perfect righteousness and His clean hands and pure heart have been credited to our account, and we may thus ascend the hill of the LORD and stand in His holy place.
Thus, we can see that this psalm conceals both the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel. We see that God requires holiness for those who would come to heaven. Since we lack holiness, we need a Savior to give us righteousness. The Lord Jesus leaves heaven and comes to earth in the Incarnation, dies on a cross, is resurrected and ascends to heaven and from there gathers His people, the entire generation of those who seek Him in repentance and in faith.
SDG rmb 12/31/2018