Psalm 24, Part 3/10: “The Most Important Question”

Psalm 24 has a threefold structure which exalts God as Creator (vv. 1-2), as holy (vv. 3-6), and as King (vv. 7-10).  In our 10-part series of this Davidic psalm, we now arrive at v. 3.

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?”

In parallel fashion, the “hill of the LORD” and “his holy place” both refer to Jerusalem, which was the city on a hill and the place of temple.  Granted, when David wrote this psalm, the temple wasn’t yet constructed, but the ark of God had entered the city nonetheless (2 Samuel 6:12-19).

The verbs “ascend” and “stand” evoke the picture of pilgrims approaching Jerusalem for the purpose of worship.  The questions pertain to the kind of person who can approach the presence of God.  In fact, these two parallel questions are really asking one: given that God owns all and made all (v. 1), who can stand before him?

That question might surprise you, perhaps even seem out of place.  After all, wasn’t David talking about God establishing the world upon the seas?  Now, suddenly, we’re reading about a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the city on a hill.

But the questions in v. 3 aren’t out of place.  In fact, the Bible holds together God’s role as Creator and his worthiness to be worshiped by what he made (Psalm 148:5).  Since Yahweh alone made the heavens and earth, his right to be worshiped extends throughout his creation.

But something has gone wrong in the world–and in us.  God’s eternal power and divine nature have been evident in his mighty works (Romans 1:20), but we have exchanged the worship of God for the worship of images, of idols, of creation (Romans 1:23).

Since God is not rightly worshiped by his creatures, the question must be asked by the psalmist: who can stand in the presence of God?  With whom does Yahweh fellowship?  Who can come before God and live to tell about it?

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