Psalm 24
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
There seems to be no very great difficulty in finding the occasion on which this magnificent psalm was originally composed. In all probability it was written by David, and sung on the occasion of bringing up the ark of God to Mount Zion (2 Samuel 6:2, 18; 2 Samuel 17:25, 26). Some regard it as prophetic, and call it "the Song of Advent," others "the Song of the Ascension." Others again apply it individually, and look upon it as appropriate for one who would open his heart to God, and let the King of glory enter therein. There are, however, so many Scriptures bearing more manifestly on these three latter applications, and there is such a fulness of instruction in dealing with the truths which are immediately suggested by the song as prepared for the historic occasion above referred to, that we shall simply invite the reader to follow the course of thought suggested thereby. All the historic information needed may be gathered from the writers referred to below; especially from the brilliant and inspiring description of Dean Stanley. The psalm discloses to us the grand revelation of God which the Hebrews possessed, and the joy which they felt at his making his dwelling-place among them. From the Hebrew standpoint we are bound to move forward to that of the Christian. Remembering this, let us note -

I. THE NAME AND DOMAIN OF JEHOVAH ARE IMMEASURABLY VAST; while the greatness of his attributes, as disclosed to his people of the olden time, is correspondingly august. The various names given to him in this psalm show us how far removed were the Hebrews' thoughts of God from those to which other nations of the earth had attained. The various expressions for the Name of God which are found here remove us very far from anything like anthropomorphism.

1. Jehovah; pure being - he who is, was, and will ever be.

2. The God of salvation.

3. The God of Jacob (LXX.), who can note the individual while watching over all.

4. The King of glory in whom the highest glory centres, and from whom all created glory proceeds, of every kind.

5. The Lord of the whole earth. The wide difference in this respect between the thoughts of the heathen and those of Israel is seen in 1 Kings 20:23; Daniel 2:11. The idea of local and tutelary deities is common enough among pagan nations. But that of one God supreme and alone is taught by revelation (Deuteronomy 6:4).

6. The Lord of hosts; Lord of all the hosts of heaven, whether the hosts of stars that roll at his command, or the hosts of seraphim and cherubim who wait upon his word. All these names of God are now a joy to the believer. He sees more in each of them than the saints of old could possibly do; and seeing God as revealed in Christ, he can add yet other names, and say:

7. "God is Spirit;" "God is light;" "God is love," adding to the latter the touching words, "He loved me, and gave himself for me." Thus while the universe is no tax on his power, the humblest child may nestle in his love.

"His greatness makes us brave as children are
When those they love are near."

II. NEVERTHELESS, THERE ARE SOME SPOTS WHERE HIS PRESENCE IS SPECIALLY SEEN. "The hill of the Lord" (ver. 3); "His holy place" (ver. 3). A careful student of the Scriptures may find matter of absorbing interest in two disclosed facts:

(1) that the great aim of God's revelation is to bring about the dwelling of man with God, and of God with man (cf. Exodus 25:8);

(2) that this is one of the thoughts of God unfolded in its different stages in the Scriptures.

1. There was the patriarchal period, when each holy man might commune with God, or erect his altar or his Bethel anywhere.

2. There was the Mosaic and prophetic period, during which there was one place that the Lord chose to put his Name there.

3. There is the present Christian period, of which it is said

(1) in prophecy (Malachi 1:11);

(2) in promise (Matthew 18:20), that wherever God's people meet in his name, he will be with them.

4. There will be the heavenly state (Revelation 21:3, 22, 23). We have not yet come to the rest and inheritance which the Lord hath promised to give us. The fourth stage is yet ahead. The second is past. The third is ours. To the believer, any room where but two or three meet in their Saviour's name may be as really a house of worship as the proudest cathedral. Such worship-rooms were common in the early Christian age. The worship itself consecrates the place. And the presence of God is in it, because it is with those who worship there. No Church has any monopoly of this Real -Presence. To all believers the Living One has said, "Go! teach, baptize, and lo! I am with you all the days, to the end of the age!"

III. THE LIVING PRESENCE OF GOD, WHEREVER REALIZED, SHEDS A RADIANCY OF GLORY. The ark was to the Hebrews the symbol, sign, and token of the Divine presence, and when it was conveyed to the Hill of Zion, that hill at once attained a proud preeminence, before which hills of far greater height became quite insignificant. Hence Psalm 68:16. And whether in earlier or later days, in tabernacle or temple, God's "way" was "in the sanctuary." Note: The tokens of God's presence, and these alone, will light up any place of worship with glory. That presence is realized:

1. In the blest fellowship the saints have in their worship, with all the redeemed on earth and in heaven, as well as with the Lord.

2. In the concert of prayer, as they plead for each other and for all men.

3. In the messages of love that come to them from their Father's Word.

4. In partaking of the tokens of love which are given in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

5. And in the reception of new blessing and power for life's service through the energy of the Holy Ghost, who in his blest fellowship quickens and inspires. Surely, any place where all these boons are enjoyed is indeed radiant with light and blessing!

IV. ALTHOUGH THIS PRESENCE MAY FILL THE HOUSE OF WORSHIP, NOT ALL THEREIN WILL BE EQUALLY CONSCIOUS OF IT. Surely this must be the deep meaning of vers. 3-6. The question in ver. 3 is unintelligible. As a matter of fact, any one could ascend the hill of the Lord, and even take up his abode in the sacred precincts. But physical proximity to the ark of God, and spiritual nearness to the God of the ark, are two very different things. It is easy to be where God is blessing his people; it is another thing to be one of those who get the blessing. Moral and spiritual receptivity is needful if we would enjoy the fulness of that blessing. Mechanism is not inspiration. Posture is not devotion. The Real Presence cannot be had through the bread and wine of the sacrament. It will not come to any through a line of officiating priests. While no one may limit the extent of the blessing so as to shut out any true worshipper, on the other hand, not even the holiest place will ensure the blessing to any except the worshipper is true. "He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; he shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation."

V. BY SUCH AS WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH THE SACRED GATES MAY BE OPENED WITH JOYOUS ACCLAIM, TO RECEIVE THE KING OF GLORY. (Vers. 7-10.) Yea, "the King of glory shall come in." He will. There is no doubt of it. The gates will not be opened in vain. The joyous host of devout souls wending their way thither will not be doomed to disappointment (Psalm 26:8; Psalm 27:4-6; Psalm 42:4; Psalm 43:3, 4; Psalm 48:9; Psalm 66:13-19; Psalm 73:16, 17; Psalm 77:13; Psalm 84; Psalm 87; Psalm 116:14-19; Psalm 118:19-27; Psalm 132:13-16). They may take up the grand choral song of this psalm, and make it their own. That they and God thus may meet is the only reason why these houses of worship are erected. That they do thus meet, the experience of the saints declares. That they will thus meet, the promises of God's Word ensure. Note: The dignity of God's worshippers. Not only do they go to speak to the King, but the King of heaven comes to meet them! - C.

Christ as the King of glory is represented here in three aspects.

I. AS THE LORD OF THE EARTH. (Vers. 1, 21.) The kingdoms of this world are limited. Some are larger than others, but the largest has its bounds (Esther 1:1; Daniel 4:1). Christ's kingdom is unlimited. Go where you will, pass from one country to another, visit different peoples, with different customs and laws, you can never get beyond its bounds. Like the sky, it covers all - "the earth, and the fulneas thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." The grounds of this universal Lordship are absolutely just and sufficient (ver. 2). He is the Proprietor, because he is the Maker; he is the Ruler, because by him all things subsist. While this belief should call forth our admiration and trust, it should also quicken our humility, and excite us to watchfulness and care as to the use we make of all things committed to us. We are occupants, not owners; we are stewards, not proprietors; we are servants, not lords.

II. THE SUPREME JUDGE OF MANKIND. The question asked here is one of transcendent importance. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" It comes home to each of us. It demands consideration. It presses for a reply. Who is fit for this high honour? Who is worthy of this holy fellowship? Who is capable of entering upon this transcendent service? The question relates to character; and the answer is given by him who alone can rightly judge as to character. In the deepest sense the description can be applied only to Christ Jesus. But the words hold good also of all who are Christ's (ver. 6), the true community of Israel, who have been redeemed and sanctified for the service of the Holy One. As Dean Stanley had said, "The answer is remarkable, as expressing, in language so clear that a child may understand it, the great doctrine that the only service, the only character, which can be thought worthy of such a habitation, is that which conforms itself to the laws of truth, honesty, humility, justice, love. Three thousand years have passed; Jerusalem has fallen; the Jewish monarchy, and priesthood, and ritual, and religion have perished; but the words of David still remain, with hardly an exception, the rule by which all wise and good men would measure the worth and value of men, the greatness and the strength of nations."

III. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE UNIVERSE. (Vers. 7-10.) Under the grand imagery of this passage we may find some important truths.

1. That Christ is the King of glory. He has vindicated his right to this title on earth and in heaven. He is the highest Manifestation of the Divine Majesty.

2. That as the King of glory he claims admission to the heart of man. In his Word and by the providence of his Spirit he comes to all He offers himself in the plenitude of his grace and power as a Saviour. If we are overawed by his greatness, we are conquered by his love. He will not force an entrance, nor will he come in secretly or by stealth. If we are to receive him, it must be willingly, and with all honour and welcome as our Lord and King.

3. That as the King of glory he is destined to reign everlastingly over his people. "Of his kingdom there shall be no end.' - W.F.

The twenty-third psalm concludes with the hope of dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever, and this psalm asks, "Who is qualified to dwell with God in his holy place?" Composed on the bringing of the ark to Mount Zion. Vers 1-6 are introductory.

I. GOD'S EXALTED NATURE. (Vers. 1, 2.) Relation of land to water in Genesis 1:9. God's creative universal power was connected in the mind of the psalmist with:

1. His omniscience. He saw with unerring truth the character of those who professed to worship and serve him.

2. His holiness. None but the pure in heart could have fellowship with him. The hypocrite, therefore, could not hope for acceptance. "God is a Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." And he was a Holy Spirit, who could have no fellowship with the untruthful and unclean.


1. Pure conduct. "Clean hands"-significant of conduct - the outward life of action, which must be unstained and righteous. No man's inward life can be right if his outward life be unclean or unjust.

2. Pure thoughts and affections. "A pure heart." The heart is the seat of the purposes and desires, and if these be not in the main and on the whole pure - "the single eye" - the whole character and life are defiled. "Not that which goeth into a man defileth him, but that which cometh out of him." "He hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity or falsehood." He is not pursuing vain or untrue things - things which are only a show, but have no substance.

3. Pure speech. "Nor sworn deceitfully." His word corresponds to his thought, and is not uttered to deceive. This requires not only truthfulness, but courage, to brave all consequences of being truthful. A man who combines these attributes can live in God's highest presence, and have fellowship and friendship with him.


1. Increase of righteousness. By seeing God and having real communion with him. The "blessing he receives is this increase of righteousness. No priestly benediction avails, unless there be the moral condition indicated.

2. He shall seek the face of God with increased earnestness. To seek the face of the Lord" is to be greatly concerned about his favour and the doing his will. And this can come only as the result of previous effort and practice. - S.

Psalm 24:3
Psalm 24:3. This psalm breathes the spirit of aspiration. It speaks of the earth as the Lord's; but we are not to rest with the earth. The call is," Who will ascend?" As one of our own poets has said -

"Not to the earth confined, ascend to heaven." Aspiration is an instinct of the heart. The young man is full of hope. Nothing seems to him impossible. His spirit leaps within him, longing to take part with others in the struggle of life.

"Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new,
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do
." Often such aspirations come to little. Work is hard. Progress is difficult. Things turn out so different from what was expected. Some fail. Others falter and lose heart. Others sink down to the dull routine of business, and the bright vision that charmed their youthful fancy fades away. But there are some who succeed. They have had ambitions, and they have stuck to them. They have had purposes, and have courageously carried them out. But if their aspirations have been limited to this world, success brings no real satisfaction. Byron found himself famous, and for a while was a great power; but how miserable were his last days! Even Gibbon, when he had brought his great work, that cost three and thirty years of labour, to an end, felt anything but quite satisfied. "I will not dissemble," he writes at Lausanne, "the first emotions of joy on the recovery of my freedom, and, perhaps, the establishment of my fame. But my pride was soon humbled, and a sober melancholy was spread over my mind, by the idea that I had taken an everlasting leave of an old and agreeable companion, and that whatsoever might be the future fate of my History, the life of the historian must be short and precarious" (vol. 1. p. 23.). Our aspirations need guidance and support. The true ascent is to "the hill of the Lord," and "his holy place." The Hebrews had much to stimulate them in the very conditions of things. They had to "go up" to Jerusalem, and when they went to the house of the Lord, the way was "still upward" - from the entrance to the holy place (Ezekiel 41:7). And all this was made helpful to them as regards higher things. But we have greater aids and encouragements. We have "the hope of glory;" the lives of the good who have gone before us; the voices of the prophets; the example of our blessed Lord; and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Every true life has its Jerusalem, and we must "go from strength to strength," still upward, if we are at last to reach the joy and peace of God. There are difficulties, as there will be in the way of all high endeavours; but we are comforted with the promise of help and the assurance of success. Thought is good, "meditated action" is better, but right action carried out, and that to the end, is best of all. If we are of the generation that seek God (ver. 6), then our motto will be, "Death to evil, and life to good." If we open our hearts to the King of glory, then under his leading our path shall ever be onward and upward, till at last we stand in the holy place, and receive the blessing from the Lord.

"Breathe me upward, thou in me
Aspiring, who art the Way, the Truth, the Life!
That no truth henceforth seem indifferent,
No way to truth laborious, and no life -
Not even this life I live - intolerable"

(Aurora Leigh.') W.F.

Sung on the entry of the ark into the ancient gates of the fortress of Jerusalem. The singers, two choirs of priests - the one bearing the ark, the other already stationed there as warders. First choir demanding admission; second reply from within, "Who is this King of glory?" The transaction may suggest and represent the appeal made for God's entrance into the heart of man. Then -

I. THE LANGUAGE WOULD REPRESENT THE MIND OF MAN AS GOD'S TEMPLE. What views of our nature are suggested by such a representation?

1. The religious destination of man. A temple is built for religious uses and objects. So this is the grand destiny for which man is created - religion. Physical, intellectual, moral destiny.

2. Represents the mind as a sanctuary/or the Divine habitation. The glory of God dwelt between the cherubim; but man is God's grandest Shechinah. This is fully recognized and asserted in the New Testament, "He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you;" "Ye are God's temple."


1. The King of glory assumes the attitude of a majestic suppliant. "Let the King come in." "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Illustrates the voluntary nature of our relations with God. Wonderful! Infinity pleading with the finite; majesty supplicating meanness; holiness stooping before the unholy!

2. The purpose for which he seeks to occupy our minds. To draw us into friendship and harmony with himself, and to establish a glorious rule over us. We are incapable of self-rule, and cannot exist alone. And this is our proper and normal relation to him.

III. THE EXERCISE OF MIND BY WHICH GOD IS ADMITTED INTO OUR NATURE. A lifting up of its powers - an elevation and expansion of them - in the following ways.

1. It is the reaching forth of our powers towards the Infinite Being. An effort to embrace our infinite and eternal concerns - a going forth out of the transient and visible into the everlasting and spiritual.

2. The active reception of God enlarges our best powers and affections. It enlarges and exalts love, will, and conscience. - S.

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