God has created us with meaning and purpose, with dignity and value – in His image. But for what? – We inhabit a world designed, created, nurtured and sustained by Almighty God, to whom we are accountable for the way we steward His good earth.
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. 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 does not trust in an idolor swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:1-4)
How is the Lord revealed in Psalm 24?
He is God the Owner (24:1)
He is God the Creator (24:2)
He is God the Holy one, high and lifted up (24:3)
He is God our Saviour (24:5)
He is God the Lord (24:5)
He is the God who blesses (24:5)
He is the God of history (24:6)
He is strong and mighty (24:8)
He is the King of Glory (24:9)
He is the Almighty (24:10)
The attributes of Almighty God seep from every verse of this short, beautiful Psalm. Margaret Thatcher once said, “No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy – with a full repairing lease.” This earth belongs to God and we are responsible to him for how we use and leave it. Or to be more precise it belongs to Jesus.” Making sense of our responsibility begins by asking the right questions. And the right question is asked in Psalm24:3.
1. The Question Asked
“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:3).
Three observations implicit in this journey.
This is an Upward Path “Who may ascend the hill?”
This is an Inhabited Path “the hill of the Lord?
This is a Sacred Path “Who may stand in his Holy place?”
This is His earth. His presence makes it holy. The words that best describes this journey or quest are transcendence, metamorphosis, sanctification. And that is the path we are called to take. A path of holiness, demonstrating the character of God, modelling the actions of God, stewarding the creation of God and caring for the people of God. The question asked.
2. The Conditions Given
Four things are needed to ascend the hill of the LORD.
“The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:4)
Four simple conditions that define your calling as a Christ follower: Clean hands. Pure heart. Devoted soul. Honest motives. The first two are intimately connected. The term “clean hands” is a neat illustration. At any given time your hands can have millions of bacteria crawling all over them. Right now you have more bacteria on your body than there are people in the world. Our hands are the hardest things to keep clean, because we use our hands to open doors and shake hands, to touch things we maybe shouldn’t and then we put them in our mouths. We use them to clean ourselves with and then we eat with them – so no wonder we get funny tummies sometimes. Yet our hands also affect our hearts and minds as well as our stomachs. We use our hands to choose the TV channels. To open books and magazines. To pick up the phone. Our hands and our hearts our intimately connected. They either help us ascend into God’s presence or they lead us downward, out of God’s will. The hands are only motivated by what is within – from our heart. So we need clean hands AND a clean heart. David defines that by adding, “who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” (Psalm 24:4)
God demands our exclusive worship, devotion and service.
We cannot serve both God and money. We cannot steward this earth for God and selfishly plunder it for ourselves, at the same time. Which is why, if the Psalm finished there we would never be able to enter God’s sanctuary. There is no way that alone, we can stand in the presence of holiness.
It is as if we are standing at the bottom Mount Snowdon with two broken legs, with two fifty pound weights strapped to our arms, and with dirty hands that can’t grip anything. Like Jack and Jill, we may try to get up the hill to fetch a crown of glory, but in our own strength, we will fall down and break our crowns. The hill is too steep. So we have not only the question asked and the conditions given. But thirdly,
3. The Blessings Assured
“They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Saviour. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God” (Psalm 24:5-6)
We don’t have the hands or the heart to enter God’s presence. We need someone with more wisdom and greater strength to climb the hill of God’s presence. We need a Saviour! And so the Psalm continues,
“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory..” (Psalm 24:7-10)
This is why Psalm 24, like Psalm 22 and like Psalm 23, is talking about the Lord Jesus, the Lord of all creation.
Jerusalem is up on a hill. When you enter it from the south, east or west, there is a steep incline leading up to it. On the Eastern side, overlooking the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives is the Golden Gate. It is blocked now but was open at the time of Jesus when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Many people had entered Jerusalem through this gate. But none of them had clean hands or a pure heart. When Jesus entered through these gates, the prayer of David was answered. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. ‘The crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But Jesus was not done climbing the mountain. He was only just beginning the ascent. He still had to climb another hill – called Golgotha. It was on that cross that Jesus pure hands were nailed, smeared with our impurity. His heart was stabbed by the spear of our sins. God would accept no other sacrifice – than that of a pure Lamb – to enter into that Holy Place. When Jesus went to the cross, he took us with Him. He exchanged our sinfulness for his holiness. He gave us the pure heart and cleansed hands we need to enter God’s presence, we need to identify with how he feels about his creation, and take responsibility for our part in it.
We can always find someone else to blame and do nothing. But the problem is deeper isn’t it? You know it is. And you know the answer as well, don’t you?
“They will receive blessing from the Lord … who seek your face, O God” (Psalm 24:5-6)
Are you experiencing God’s blessing? Are you seeking God’s face? His wisdom? His guidance? The mountain of climate change is indeed high. Who May Ascend the Hill of the LORD? The King of Glory has come and answered it – not just with words – but with actions. Jesus rode into Jerusalem to die in your place. And so when David asks, “who may ascend the hill of the LORD?” you know the answer. You may. And you will – if you hold firmly onto the strong hand of Christ our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Friend. Lets pray.