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“This grand choral hymn was in all probability composed and sung on the occasion of the removal of the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of David, on Mount Zion (2 Samuel 6:0). It was a day of solemn gladness and triumph. No long period had elapsed since David had wrested the stronghold of Zion from the last remnant of the hill-tribes of the Canaanites which lingered in Palestine. Henceforth this mountain-city, deemed by its ancient inhabitants impregnable, was selected by the conqueror as the seat of the royal residence and the centre of religious worship; and thither, after having subdued his enemies, he determined to bring the ark which, for nearly fifty years, had been left neglected at Kirjath-Jearim. It is difficult for us to conceive the feelings, at once of the most exalted and fervent patriotism, and of the deepest religious enthusiasm, which would be awakened in the hearts of the people by such an event. The king, and priests, and people, the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands (1 Chronicles 15:2), in solemn procession, and with all the accompaniments of music and song, conducted the ark to its resting-place on the holy mountain. It was then that this majestic anthem rose to heaven, ‘Jehovah’s is the earth, and the fulness thereof;’ and the gates of that grey old fortress were bid to lift themselves up, as being too narrow to admit the King of glory. The psalm consists of two principal divisions: I. The preparation for the entry of Jehovah into His holy mountain (Psalms 24:1-6). II. The entry itself (Psalms 24:2-10).”—Perowne.
THE DIVINE PROPRIETORSHIP OF THE WORLD
I. The Divine proprietorship of the world is absolute and all-inclusive (Psalms 24:1). The world belongs to God—
1. As to its matter. “The earth is the Lord’s.” With all its forms of beauty and magnificence, with all its ponderous forces and mystic laws, with all its wealth of mineral and hidden treasures of earth, air, and ocean. Man has conquered the earth by the power of the sword, and claimed the right to dispose of it in petty states and kingdoms; but the earth does not belong to man. “He is but a tenant at will,—a leaseholder upon most precarious tenure, liable to instantaneous ejectment. The great Landowner and true Proprietor holds His court above the clouds, and laughs at the title-deeds of worms of the dust. The fee-simple is not with the lord of the manor, nor the freeholder, but with the Creator.”—Spurgeon.
2. As to its productiveness. “And the fulness thereof.” It is God who makes the soil fruitful, the air vital and sustaining, and the water in the great ocean-basin maintain its just proportion to the land. Notwithstanding that population follows so closely on the heels of production, there is always enough for man and beast. God fills the earth with plenty, and keeps it full. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” are words inscribed on the front of the Royal Exchange, London, and on similar institutions throughout the country. It is fitting that the great centres of the world’s commerce should acknowledge the Divine source and ownership of the world’s wealth.
3. As to its inhabitants. “The world, and they that dwell therein.” The Jews claimed to be the sole and peculiar possession of Jehovah, and yet they were accustomed to sing words like these! They are not the only people whose sentiments and conduct have been beneath the nobler teachings of their creed. Christianity has done brave work in breaking down the exclusiveness of nations. Not one specially favoured nation, but all nations belong to the Lord. The rights and freedom of manhood belong to every individual member of the human family, whatever his country, colour, or surroundings. All living beings—the denizens of earth, air, and sea—are the property of Jehovah. The Supreme Owner of all deserves the obedience and homage of all. The devout mind sees all things in God, and God-in all things.
II. The Divine proprietorship of the world is based an the act of creation. “For He hath founded it upon the seas” (Psalms 24:2). “The reference is no doubt to the account of creation in Genesis, the dry land having emerged from the water, and seeming to rest upon it (Compare Psalms 136:6; Proverbs 8:29). It would, however, be quite out of place to suppose that in such language we have the expression of any theory, whether popular or scientific, as to the structure of the earth’s surface.”—Perowne. The human mind has wearied itself in spinning theories about the origin of the world, and in the historic development of these theories, from time to time, different schools of pseudo-religious philosophy have prevailed—modern thought being but a reproduction, in a new setting, of the ideas of the ancient philosophers. Deism, representing one school of thinkers, suffers a God to exist, but plunges Him into a state of apathetic repose. Pantheism confounds Him with the world. Materialism utterly denies Him, while, all along the line of these theorists, we see the world, the spirit of the world, the life of the world, and the matter of the world, are exalted and adored in succession. Proud, vain, puny man! He is like a fly discussing the mechanism of an elephant, or a wriggling annelid discoursing on the vastness and glory of the ocean. Augustine, in a splendid passage of his “Confessions,” describes the true origin of creation as the work of God: “I asked the earth; it said, I am not He; and all that therein is made the same acknowledgment. I asked the sea and the depths, and all that move and live therein, and they answered, We are not thy God; seek higher. I asked the winds, but the air with all its inhabitants answered, I am not thy God. I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, and they answered, Neither are we the God whom thou seekest. And I said to all things that surrounded me, Ye have told me concerning my God, that ye are not He; speak then to me of Him. And they all cried with loud voices, He made us!”
III. The Divine proprietorship of the world is confirmed by the fact of its preservation. “And established it upon the floods,” or, upon the streams doth He make it fast. The preservation of the world is a perpetual miracle. It requires the exercise of the same power of God as that which first called it into being. The area of the sea is three times greater than that of the land. But for the preserving care of God, the waters of the ocean would inundate and submerge the earth, and destroy all its inhabitants. As much water is contributed to the ocean by the rivers as would make a new ocean every year, and yet the sea is not augmented. The preserving power of God has put into operation the law of evaporation, by which the sea loses every day as much moisture as it receives from tributary streams. How insecure are the foundations of the earth—resting on treacherous and unstable water! If God were to withdraw His hand for a moment, the elemental forces of nature would annihilate the world and they that dwell therein. He who preserves the world has an undisputed right to possess it.
1. The folly of loving the present world.
2. The audacity of Satan in claiming all the kingdoms of the world.
3. The duty and privilege of rendering joyful worship to the great Proprietor of all.
THE MORAL FITNESS OF THE TRUE WORSHIPPER
I. That it is the privilege of the true worshipper to approach near to God (Psalms 24:3). He “ascends into the hill of the Lord,” and “stands in His holy place.” “His holy place is no less than the very place and seat of glory. And being such, you cannot imagine it but hard to come by; the very petty glories of the world are so. This is a hill of glory, hard to climb, difficult to ascend, craggy to pass up, steep to clamber, no plain campagnia to it; the broad easy way leads some whither else (Matthew 7:13); the way to this is narrow,—it is rough and troublesome. But not only to ascend but stand there; to continue at so high a pitch, to be constant in truth and piety, that will be hard indeed, and bring more difficulties to contest with.”—Mark Frank. The devout and sincere worshipper is admitted into the arena of the heavenly temple, his spiritual vision is intensified, he becomes familiar with the deeper truths of God, he catches glimpses of unearthly glories, he is filled with the ecstasy of unutterable emotions.
II. That the true worshipper must possess a moral fitness (Psalms 24:4). There must be—
1. Rectitude of conduct. “He that hath clean hands.” The ceremonially unclean were not allowed to touch the sacred things of the Temple, and certainly the morally impure, whose hands are defiled with wrong-doing, cannot enter into hallowed fellowship with God. The conscience that is not upright in the practical common-place duties of life cannot be sincere and blameless in the solemn worship of God.
2. Purity of heart. “And a pure heart.” It is not enough for the outward life to be consistent, the inward experience must be holy. The inner life is everything to us; if we are wrong there, we are wrong everywhere and in everything. There is a moral sympathy between the worshipper and the worshipped, and the tendency is to become increasingly like the object of our adoration. The holy God can accept nothing but what is the offering of a holy heart. Hence the perpetual need of the sanctifying merits of the great Mediator: without His aid, the best effort of the worshipper is imperfect and impure.
3. Truthfulness of thought and speech. “Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” “Unto vanity, i.e., either
(1.) the perishing things of earth (Job 15:31); or,
(2.) falsehood (Job 31:5), which signification passes over into a wider one of moral evil in general (Psalms 119:37); or,
(3.) false gods, idols (Psalms 31:6). It may be taken here in the widest sense of all that the human heart puts in the place of God.”—Perowne. Truthfulness in heart and lip is demanded. “God will have nothing to do with liars except to cast them into the lake of fire. Every liar is a child of the devil, and will be sent home to his father. A false declaration, a fraudulent statement, a cooked account, a slander, a lie,—all these may suit the assembly of the ungodly, but are detested among true saints: how could they have fellowship with the God of truth, if they did not hate every false way.”—Spurgeon.
III. That the true worshipper is assured of the Divine benediction. “He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of His salvation” (Psalms 24:5). “Righteousness, not in the New Testament sense of justification but in the Old Testament acceptation of inward and outward holiness; but still even this regarded as a gift from the God of his salvation.” The blessing of God rested on the family of Obed-Edom while the ark remained in the vicinity of his dwelling. Blessings cluster around the sanctuary, and the eager and earnest worshipper gathers them there to his everlasting enrichment. Many leave the sanctuary in a poorer condition than when they came, because of their moral inability to appreciate and take in the offered good. “He filleth the hungry with good things, but the rich He hath sent empty away.”
IV. That the true worshipper is the representative of a distinctive and privileged class. “This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek Thy face, O Jacob” (Psalms 24:6). In all ages there have been seekers after God; and all seekers who have possessed the moral qualities enumerated in these verses are recognised as true worshippers. “He who longs to see his friend when he passes takes care to clear the mist from the window, lest by any means his friend should go by unobserved.” Men spend years of study in seeking the solution to a mathematical problem, in perfecting a mechanical instrument, or in verifying a scientific discovery. A whole lifetime cannot be better spent than in seeking after God. Such seekers make the grandest discoveries, and confer the greatest blessings on the world. It is said that JOHN WELSH, of Scotland, often leaped out of his bed at midnight, wrapped a plaid around him, and wrestled with the Lord till the breaking of day. His preaching was irresistible when he came to his pulpit from these Penuels of pleading with his God.
1. Divine help is necessary to worship God acceptably.
2. Acceptable worship is productive of the greatest blessings.
3. The outward life should be in harmony with the deepest experiences of the heart.
THE TRIUMPHAL ENTRY OF THE GLORIOUS KING
“The festal procession has now reached the gates of the city of Zion. The singers go before, the minstrels follow after, and in the midst of these is the ark, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of Hosts, that dwelleth between the cherubim (2 Samuel 6:2); so that the entry of the ark is the entry of Jehovah Himself into Zion (Numbers 10:35). By a sublime figure the poet bids ‘the everlasting gates’ of that grey old fortress be lifted up; for the greatest and most glorious of all Kings is He who now enters in, to claim it for Himself.”—Perowne. But we cannot overlook the prophetical and typical reference of this magnificent psalm, as pointing to that period when Christ as the King of glory, after having gained access to all hearts, in all nations, shall enter His heavenly palace and take His seat on that throne before which all the ransomed will bow and render everlasting homage. The triumphal entry of the glorious King.
I. Will be into a palace of enduring splendour. “Ye everlasting doors” (Psalms 24:7; Psalms 24:9). “Doors were often taken from their hinges when Easterns would show welcome to a guest, and some doors were drawn up and down like a portcullis, and may possibly have protruded from the top: thus literally lifting up their heads.” But the imagery is highly poetical, and describes the vast, expansive, and generous welcome with which the conquering monarch is greeted when entering His heavenly home. The most gorgeous and strongly-built palace of earth is doomed to crumble and perish; it may become the prison and the grave of those who entered it flushed with conquest and elate with joy. But the heavenly temple knows no decay,—its beauties are unfading, its doors are ever open, its freedom untrammelled. “The gates of it shall not be shut at all by day; for there shall be no night there” (Revelation 21:25). “Heaven’s gates are called everlasting, because they shall endure for ever, or because they be the doors unto the life which is everlasting.”—John Boys.
II. Will be in the character of a mighty conqueror. “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle” (Psalms 24:8). He has fought the grim, fierce conflict with evil and all the powers of hell, and won a signal and complete victory. And now He is welcomed as a warrior, strong as God Himself,—as one who was wounded, but whose scars are healed; as one who was dead, but is alive again,—whose soul was once exceeding sorrowful even unto death, while the sun was darkened and the rocks were rent as if in sympathy with their struggling and suffering Lord, but who has conquered sorrow, and sin, and the grave, and is entering into the coveted joy He has so bravely won.
III. Will be attended by a brilliant throng of celestial hosts. “The Lord of hosts; He is the King of glory” (Psalms 24:10). Of all the triumphal processions of antiquity, perhaps none exceeded in pride and magnificence that of Aurelian, in the city of Rome. The pomp was opened by twenty elephants, four royal tigers, and above two hundred of the most curious animals from every climate of the North, the East, and the South. The ambassadors from the most remote parts of the earth, all remarkable by their rich or singular dresses, displayed the fame and power of the Roman Emperor. The victories of Aurelian were attested by a long train of captives who reluctantly attended his triumph, among whom was the beauteous figure of Zenobia, the Syrian Queen, confined by fetters of gold, and almost fainting under the intolerable weight of jewels. (Vide Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall.”) But infinitely, beyond all earthly comparison will be the grand triumphal entry of the heavenly King into the everlasting city! The hour is coming when, in loud and rapturous strains, the gates of heaven shall be bidden to enlarge themselves, and the portals of eternity to unfold; and angels, principalities, and powers, with the innumerable multitude of the redeemed, shall attend the Divine conqueror in His exultant entrance into His rightful possession. Neither He nor His ransomed ones shall struggle more. The King of saints has conquered, and they in Him: they shall now share in His victory, His kingdom, His glory, and in His eternity.
IV. Will be the occasion of inexpressible joy to the universe. Earth is too narrow to hold the gladness; heaven is invoked to share it. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.” The inquiry of heaven, trembling with a rapture, which it strives in vain to suppress, as if the anticipated response would be a too great excess of joy, “Who is this King of glory?” is answered by the thundering plaudits of innumerable voices, every tone ringing with transport, “The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory!” It is said that the battle between the Romans and Carthaginians at Thrasymene was fought amid such terrific noise and fury created by the combatants, that
“An earthquake reeled unheedingly away!”
So the shout of joy that shall greet the triumphant Monarch of the skies, shall drown all other sounds, even the loudest convulsions of nature, and shall fill the heavenly welkin with everlasting echoes.
“Throw wide your portals, Oh ye heavenly gates,
And let His ransomed train exulting pass!
Come forth! O Conqueror, in Thy royal robes,
For Thou alone
Hast triumphed o’er Thy foes; and vow Thou bear’st
Upon Thy vesture and Thy thigh the name
Of King of kings. Come, then, and take Thy throne,
For Thine it is by right, too long usurped.
Thine is the kingdom, all the power is Thine
For ever; and to Thee—alone to Thee shall endless praise
And everlasting glory be ascribed!”
1. Evil will not always dominate.
2. Strive, by conquering the evil within thee, to gain a moral fitness to participate in the triumph of the glorious King.
3. Accept, believingly, the help of the Divine conqueror.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 24". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter