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.

24:3
“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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Psalm 24, Part 2/10: “A Cosmic Temple Established By God”

In Psalm 24, vv. 1-2 teach that God is the Creator.  While v. 1 asserts his ownership of all things, v. 2 makes explicit his creation of the world.

24:2
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers” 

David, the psalm’s author, states the reason for the truth of v. 1.  God owns everything (“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof”) because he made everything.  In David’s reasoning, God is Owner because he is Maker.

The verbs David uses are important, because he doesn’t simply say God “created.”  Instead we see the words “founded” and “established,” parallel terms which call to mind a firmly built structure–like a temple, perhaps.

In fact, several texts portray the cosmos as a temple of sorts, a building established by God.  The heavens are like a tent stretched out by God (Psalm 104:2).  Job heard God describe creation with the vocabulary of architecture and construction (Job 38:4-6).  God claimed to spread the heavens like a curtain in order to dwell there (Isa 40:22).  In a significant sense, then, the world is God’s dwelling place, his cosmic temple.

God made this world “upon the seas” and “upon the rivers,” again parallel phrases.  Now think about the nature of this underlying material: is there anything less stable than water on which to build a lasting structure?  It seems like such a building would be vulnerable to damage, if not total collapse.

In the ancient Near Eastern worldview, water was a picture of chaos where disorder reigned.  In pagan myths, the gods struggled to bring order upon the unruly depths.  Perhaps, then, David’s words are a rebuke of contemporary pagan philosophies of creation and stories of struggles between gods.

The point is this: the one true God, Yahweh, owns all things because he made all things.  He established order upon the least likely of surfaces, asserting his authority and displaying his power.

Who, then, is like the Lord?  He alone founded the world and dwells in his creation (he is, after all, omnipresent), while remaining distinct from his creation.  Heaven is his throne and earth is his footstool (Isaiah 66:1).  And although he is pleased to dwell in his cosmic temple, not even the highest heavens can contain him (2 Chronicles 6:18).

Psalm 24, Part 1/10: “The Earth Belongs to Yahweh”

Over the course of 10 posts, we will look at each verse of Psalm 24.  By way of brief overview, this psalm has 3 divisions, each of which teach a truth about God:

  • vv. 1-2: God is CREATOR
  • vv. 3-6: God is HOLY
  • vv. 7-10: God is KING

The superscription says the psalm is “of David,” its author.

24:1
The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein” 

In the Hebrew text, Yahweh’s name appears first for emphasis.  It is to Yahweh that the earth belongs, to him and to no other.  In the ancient world, pagans ascribed existence and power to many gods who ruled over various parts of the world.  Different gods commanded the sea, the weather, fertility, etc.

So David makes his point clear: God rules the earth as the sole Lord of his creation.  And as Ruler, he has no comparable rivals, no legitimate competitors.

David uses terms of totality: “the earth” is paralleled by “the world” in the second half of the verse, and “the fullness thereof” is paralleled by “those who dwell therein.”  Those phrases don’t omit anything in creation.

And if God owns all creation, then he owns us, as David emphasized in the last phrase of v. 1.  The conclusion is inescapable: we do not belong to ourselves.  We are dependent on him–for everything.

Snow in 49 States

On January 11, there was snow in 49 states, with the exception of Florida.

This reminds me of Psalm 147:15-17, which affirms God’s control of the weather:

“He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly.  He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.  He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?”

Think of it: snow in 49 states at one time!  God is amazing.

God is Knitting My Baby

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps 139:13).

God has not entrusted the formation of life into anyone else’s hands.  His mighty hands are tender, knitting with care the baby in a mother’s womb.

My wife Stacie and I prayed tonight for our baby, due this June.  I was reminded of Psalm 139 and how God exercises intricate care and precision when he designs a person.

Our baby is in God’s hands, and it is a helpless feeling.  We need to feel helpless, though, so that we remember to trust God.  He is good, capable, loving, and faithful.

Wonder of wonders, there is a baby in Stacie’s womb who is being fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14).