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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 24

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-2

Psalms 24:1-2

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.

The earth the Lord’s

So the Psalmist in this place speaks of the Divine sovereignty and of the Divine purpose and programme. The Divine sovereignty--the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. God stretches out His sceptre over all places, all peoples, all events. However you parcel the earth out, He is the great Landlord and the Sovereign Ruler doing according to His will amongst the inhabitants of the earth. And the Psalmist tells us in this place on what this rests. God created it, and He sustains it. What a great deal you see in the world that your ancestors did not see, and what a great deal your children will see in it that you do not see! It is a mysterious world, with the fulness thereof. How there is wrapped up in the world unknown possibilities to be manifested in due season. When God created the world He did not leave it; He lives in the midst of the splendour He first created. He is evermore active in all the things of nature and of history. You build a palace, and it comes to ruin, but the earth never comes to ruin. You never have to put an iron band round the firmament to hold up the dome as they have put an iron band upon the dome of St. Peter’s at Rome. Now, the Psalmist here tells how God seeks to accomplish His great purpose in the world that He created, the world that He maintains, the world that He redeemed. He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. What is that? That God, who is the Sovereign of this world, has a great purpose in its government, and He seeks to accomplish that purpose through endless mutability and conflict. Now, you see the very same thing when you look into nature. God has made this world in exactly the same way, and the tangible world, the planet itself, how has it come to pass? He called forth His Spirit, and His Spirit moved on the face of the waters. Movement, you see. So it was in that strange old world, out of movement, mutability, catastrophe, out of these seas and floods, that this lovely earth arose, as the Greeks fabled that Venus arose out of the foam of the sea. Why, you know the history of your planet now pretty well. You know, your fathers, when they wanted to explain the configuration of this planet, always used to talk about the flood and the deluge. Oh! the deluge explained a lot. But you know a great deal better. You have studied geology since then. Nowadays you do not talk about Noah’s deluge having made the planet what it is. You push it a great deal further back than that. For all that went on in these revolutions have left their signs on the rocks. What terrific floods, what mighty deluges, what burnings, what ages of frost and glaciers, and through all that God never lost sight of His final purpose to make this planet into what you see it today--music, colour, fragrance--a great and delightful theatre of intellectual and spiritual life. He hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods, and out of movement, unsettlement, change, it arose, the lovely planet that you see it today. And mind, it is always going on just the same today. One would think sometimes, to look at the earth, that it was asleep. But make no mistake about that. The one thing nature never will stand is immovability. She won’t tolerate stagnation. They say that sometimes in the Pacific they have periods of absolute calm, and in a few days the very sea begins to rot, and the stench is insufferable. Nature won’t stand it, she is full of unsettlement, full of movement, full of catastrophe. That is the way you keep the ocean pure, the atmosphere sweet, and the earth full of vitality. Now, I want to say to you that that is all just as true in the history of ourselves. If you will look down the history you will find that God has ever been active in the midst of the nations, always overturning that He may introduce a civilisation that is a shade better than the civilisation that preceded it. You never can make a nation fixed and permanent. The world from the beginning amongst the nations has been in a state of unrestfulness and changefulness. But I believe there never has been a change in this world but it has been for the better. Mind you, it often seems to a careless eye as if the world were going back, but whenever the critical period comes the best is always on the top. You go back in history to the great conflict, say, between the Greeks and Orientals, when there seemed a time that the Oriental world was likely to swamp Europe, when it was likely to destroy the civilisation of Greece, which was the promise of all future civilisations. But when the critical battle came the Greek was master of the situation. It was just the same again when you come to the great conflicts between the Romans and the Phoenicians. As you know perfectly well, there seemed a day when the Phoenician, with his dark superstitions, his terrible practices, was going to triumph; but when the ultimate time came, when the final battle was fought, the Roman was at the top, with his wiser, healthier, and nobler conceptions, ideals, and strivings. It was just the same again a little later when Mohammedanism came into contact with Europe, and the Moor was at the very gate of Vienna. It seemed as if the inferior civilisation was going to swamp the nobler, but God, who sat upon the face of the waters, said, “Hitherto and no further,” and Mohammedanism was turned back, and it has been going back ever since. It has stopped a bit at Constantinople, but it will have to go. God has not made this world to go backwards. He has made it on the principle of a sure but ofttimes obscure development. Mind, I confess it looks as if it were not so. It seems sometimes as if we made a great deal of movement for positive retrogression. It looks so until we think about it. The world keeps going to pieces continually, and you never get anything fixed. But I am not going to lose sight of the fact that in the midst of instabilities and revolutions God is always quietly present. Always His end is to make men and nations pure and perfect. He has done it in the past; He will do it still. Why, you know well enough, in the fifth century--was it in the fifth or sixth?--a few fishermen laid the foundations of Venice in the slime of the lagoons. These men, with a few sticks and stones, began the creation, and as time went on there grew out of this slender and rude beginning the city of solemn temples, gorgeous palaces, the city of great painters, sculptors, and poets. And they built it out of the seas and established it upon the floods--the ideal city, the city dear to all lovers of the perfect. A few fishermen, in the first century, under the direction of the Master Builder, laid the foundations of a new world in the modern rottenness of the old civilisations, and now for 1900 years another building has been going on, the Church of Christ, the City of God, the Spiritual Venice. And mind, there is not a single movement in this world but aids it. There is no revolution but puts another bit of marble into it. He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the floods, and I can stand sad see the whole world going to pieces with the utmost tranquillity, because I know that the destructive is also the constructive, and God never destroys unless He is going to build in its place something that is larger and more rational and more perfect. And all this is true of the individual life. Prepare yourselves for it. Just look at your lives. They have been one course of unsettlement, and it will be so until that man in white comes and reads over you that we never continue in one state. That is the way with us here. People imagine sometimes that they have got things pretty fairly square, that they have got things on a good basis, and that they are going to have a nice, tranquil time of it. Not a bit of it. He has built it upon the seas and founded it upon the floods. He will turn it over directly. You may be sure of that. When people marry and settle down, you sometimes hear people say, “Oh! they are, married and settled now.” You fancy you have got things into shape. You don’t know where the next change is to come from. But it will come. There is no settlement; but mind this, every time God unsettles you it is for a great moral end. There ought to be no change in your life which does not leave you stronger and purer. So look up, the world is not purposeless: no man’s life is a chaos. With endless variation, contrast, conflict, and catastrophe God is with us, and He will bring it out well at last, because when I get to the last page of the Book I read, “And there shall be no more sea.” (W. L. Watkinson.)

God’s mundane property and man’s moral obligation

His property.

1. Its extent. The earth and its fulness (Psalms 24:1).

2. Its foundation--creatorship. “He hath founded it,” etc. (Psalms 24:2).

Man’s moral obligation.

1. It urges him to be just. “Will a man rob God?”

2. To be humble.

3. To be thankful. It is God that has given us ourselves, with all our capacities and means of improvement and of pleasure.

4. To be acquiescent. God has a right to do what He likes with His own.

Let the text be written on our hearts. It is engraved on the front of the Royal Exchange, but how few pause to read it, and fewer still ponder it in their hearts. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The earth and its fulness

There was a time when every separate department of nature was supposed to have a separate deity ruling over it. Every nation, every district, every sphere of life, every profession, every trade had a god of its own. There was a time when each race and tribe acknowledged no god but one. Then there comes the conviction that the Power which all are in some form seeking after is one and the same everywhere. We never can pass from His dominions.

The Divine presence in the world. It is His power and His presence which we behold around us. He hath created and preserveth all. The universe is itself a manifestation of Him; it is His garment, it is illuminated and aglow with the Divine presence. As with the earth, so with its fulness. Its products are irradiated With a heavenly glory. They, too, come from Him who is wise in counsel and excellent in working. The earth is given to the sons of men, that it may be subdued and cultivated, that its boundless treasures may be sought out and developed. There is no doubt a wrong way as well as a right way of availing ourselves of them.

All things God’s good gifts. If this can be said of meats and drinks, how much more may it be said of the manifold gifts with which the earth is ripe; the means placed at our disposal for the amelioration of human suffering, the lessening of toil, the advancement of knowledge, the increase of well-being in every shape and form. There was recently brought to light in Cornwall an old picture of our blessed Lord, in which His precious blood is represented as flowing over the various implements of industry--the reaping hook, the scythe, the shuttle, the cart--implying that by His incarnation all human labour has been sanctified, that everything wherewith we carry on the work of the home, or of the world, is cleansed and consecrated through the life and death of Christ; that in Him all things are gathered together in one, and are made meet to be laid upon the altar of God. (P. MAdam Muir, D. D.)

God’s claims upon men

There is a strong tendency in the present day to forget the immanence of God in creation. We do well to emphasise the constant dependence of the universe upon the preserving power of God. The Psalmist was wiser than the wisest atheistical philosopher when he declared that the earth is the Lord s, for He hath founded it. The more we learn of the Creator and His works the more must we realise His infinite wisdom and almighty power. They tell us that the propositions of the evolutionist, if true, obviate all necessity for a personal Creator. But there must have been a great creative plan or this universe could not have come into being, and behind that plan there must have been an Omniscient Personal Intelligence. To what extent have men realised, and do men realise today, the conception of the text? How far have they grasped the thought that the earth is the Lord’s and they are His stewards? The Jew was vividly reminded of the truth by that strange institution, the “Year of Jubilee.” It served to remind the whole nation that “Jehovah was the Supreme Landlord under whom their tenure was held.” The Psalmist goes a step further when he declares not only that the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof, but also “the world and they that dwell therein.” Not merely because we are created beings do we belong to God. We have realised an immeasurably higher claim upon our service. It is created by His “inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,”--in a word, by the mercies of Calvary. How many of you thus recognise God’s claim upon you in this definite manner? (Henry S. Lunn, M. D.)

The earth is the Lord’s

The best of God’s gifts are often those which are least valued. It is the same with truths as it is with things. Whenever a truth becomes very common, whenever, that is to say, it is put by Divine Providence into the minds of all, we begin to neglect it, and to forget that God should be praised for it. To one of these old and familiar, yet preeminently useful, truths attention is now directed. From the earliest dawn of our reason we were taught that God made us, that a Wise and Holy Being who loves us was our Creator and the Author of all that exists, and what we were taught we believed, and still believe. But while we may both know and believe this truth, nothing is more likely than that, owing to its very commonness and our familiarity with it, we may realise most inadequately the worth of it, and feel very little of that gratitude to God for the revelation of it which we ought to feel. It is not yet a truth known to all the peoples of the earth. It is not a truth which any man, if left to himself, would be sure or even likely to find out. Great men, giants in the intellectual world, have failed to attain to a clear knowledge of God as the alone Creator and Lord of nature. He who believes in God as the Creator and Ruler of the universe can be neither atheist, materialist, or pantheist. The faith in God as the Creator is the necessary basis of all higher spiritual faith.

1. The world being recognised as the work and manifestation of God is thereby invested with a deep religious awe, a solemn religious significance.

2. It is a source of pure and holy joy from which we may draw whenever we look upon anything in nature that is fair and well-fitted to fulfil the end of its creation.

3. By thus sending men to nature as well as Scripture for their religion our text tends to give breadth and freedom to the religious character.

4. Only through realising our relation to nature can we realise our relation to God Himself. We owe all to God, and nothing is our own. (Robert Flint, D. D.)

The truth of Divine providence

1. Though this is generally acknowledged in principle, it is departed from in practice. Only casual and transient thought is given to the never-ceasing care and kindness of Divine providence.

2. All the children of God have, in successive ages, proclaimed and deeply felt the truth of the providence of God. Many instances might be adduced from the lives and declarations of the patriarchs to prove that whether in prosperity or adversity the sense of God’s providence was ever present, and His right of possession and disposal ever uppermost in their minds.

3. Practical reflections. The business of commercial life tends to corrupt the mind and the affections, to withdraw them from the Creator and to concentrate them on the creature. We learn the duty of gratitude for all those blessings which out of that fulness He has showered on us. Since the world and its fulness is God’s and not ours, as He can give so He can take away. As God has distributed to us some part of the world’s fulness, for the use and abuse of our trust we are responsible to Him. The text further declares that not only the “earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” but also “they that dwell therein.” “All souls are Mine,” saith the Lord. (Henry Clissold, M. A.)

The merchants of Britain

Of the advantages of commerce.

1. How vast it is. Its standard is planted upon the Andes and the Himalayas. The great Pacific and Atlantic seas are beaten white by our ships. From the ghauts of Malabar to the sands of Coromandel, from the steppes of the Cossack to the wilds of the Arab, from the Thames and the Mersey to the Mississippi and the Missouri, the commerce of Britain has extended its influence.

2. This great commercial power has done some good. It has opened up new channels of intercourse with mankind. It has created links of sympathy and bonds of union where all was severance and estrangement before.

3. It has gathered round it great homage and eclat.

4. It is very successful.

5. Of great importance to the State.

6. Must ever be associated with agricultural power.

7. Is one of the greatest securities against war.

Its perils.

1. Avarice.

2. Considering everything from the trade point of view.

3. Absorbing care.

4. Reckless speculation.

5. Pride.

6. Forgetfulness of God.

Its responsibilities.

1. Merchants should acknowledge God.

2. Seek to extend His kingdom.

3. Remember they are but stewards of their wealth.

4. Pity the poor.

5. Spread the Gospel. (J. Cumming, D. D.)

The religiousness of secular learning

This title is not a happy one. “Religiousness” seems to indicate, according to the conventional usage, a flimsy, fussy attention to the externals of religion, rather than a participation in the essential spirit of it. By the use of the adjective “secular” you might suppose I draw the usual broad distinction between things sacred and profane. My question is this, What of religion of the religious spirit--is there about that which is usually called secular learning? By all other kinds of knowledge than the theological? When a man is studying languages, literature, or science, what is the attitude of the soul towards God? My doctrine is founded upon the principle asserted in the text. “The fulness,” that is, all which makes it up, every particle and grain of which it is composed. All things are directly related to God as effects are to their cause, as phenomena to their basis, substance, or reality. They exist in Him and by Him.

1. All secular learning is directly or indirectly religious, because it directly or indirectly brings us into contact with the mind of God as manifested in His works. When you have learned a fact in nature you have learned a thought of God.

2. Secular learning is directly religious in its tendencies, because it trains and educates the mind for the clearer and fuller comprehension of theological truth. (J. Cranbrook.)

Verses 3-4

Psalms 24:3-4

Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?

Climbing the mountain

We may fairly compare the life of a Christian to the ascent of a mountain. Propose the text as a serious question.

Some who answer “we shall” are young beginners. They have not yet tried the rougher part of the mountain. Be not overconfident. There is a sense in which to be weak is to be strong,

Others speak out of sheer ignorance. “Oh,” say they, “it is not far to heaven. It is a little thing to be a Christian. You have only to say, ‘God be merciful to me,’ and the thing is done.” Oh, poor ignorant soul, your folly is too common. To the unaccustomed traveller, nothing is more deceptive than a lofty Alp. You think you can get to the top in half an hour, but find it a full day’s journey. It is so with religion.

Others think they have found a smooth road by which they may avoid all roughness. Take care, presumptuous soul, for the greener the path the greater the danger.

Others think they will be sure to ascend because of what they carry with them. This is the way in which the worldly-wise and self-sufficient talk, and those who are rich and cumbered with much serving in the world.

But others seem very sad. Why mourn you? “Oh,” say they, “we shall never ascend the hill of God.” I should have thought you the very ones who would ascend. Why do you think you shall fail?

1. One says: “I am so weak, and the hill is so exceeding high. I can do nothing good. But God will help you.

2. I am so sorely tried, and the way is so rough.” But the road to heaven never was anything but rough, so you may be the more sure you are in the right way.

3. “But I have been sorely tempted; and across my path there is a swollen torrent, and I cannot wade through it.” But the Lord knows how to deliver thee. In one of the wild valleys of Cumberland we were rained up for two or three days. The little brooks had been swollen until they roared like thundering rivers. But I noticed, when we did make the attempt, that the sheep which fed upon the mountain side could spring from stone to stone, rest a moment in the middle, while the angry flood rushed on either side, and then leap and spring again. I thought of the text, “He maketh my feet like hind’s feet.”

4. “But I have lost my way altogether, I cannot see a step before me; a thick fog of doubt and fear hangs over me.” We too have passed through such fogs. Let him not fear but trust in the Lord.

5. “But my woe is worse. I have been going down hill. My faith is not as strong as it was; my love has grown cold; my depravity has burst out. I am sure it is all over with me,” In climbing a mountain it often occurs that the path winds downward for a season, But Christians never mount better than when they descend.

6. “But I am in such danger. I fear I shall fall.” When a Christian looks down it is likely to make his head swim. Look up! The Scripture does not bid us run our race looking at our own tottering legs, but “looking unto Jesus.”

Look at the man who is able to ascend the hill of the Lord.

1. He is well shod.

2. Girt about his loins,

3. He has a strong staff.

4. And a guide.

5. He marks the way. And oh! the joy when the sunset is reached. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The message of the Ascension Psalms

On its historical side the Ascension of Christ is an event of surpassing grandeur and sublimity. It is an event without parallel in the history of mankind. For the Ascension of Christ rises far beyond the translations of Enoch or Elijah. His ascension was the ascension of a risen and immortal man, of a spiritualised and glorified body. It was therefore a perfectly unique and unparalleled event. This historic fact, applied to ourselves, penetrating our inmost being, conquering our wills, directing our motives, stirring our thoughts, exalting our actions--this, and this alone, is of redeeming service and eternal consequence. One of the greatest needs of our age is this applied Christianity; this application of historic, doctrinal religion to daily righteousness. We want the life of Christ imputed to us; and imputed, not by some ecclesiastical or juridical fiction, but in a plain, honest, practical way--the way of faith shown forth by works. What a poor paltry thing our modern respectable Christianity too often is! The Christianity of the Gospel is real and glorious. It begins with the cradle, and does not end with the grave. It has no will except the will of God. What is the message of the two Ascension Psalms (24; 25.)? Their first message is of Christ. That message was primarily and historically fulfilled when Christ Himself passed through the heavens. But the message is not concerning Christ alone. It concerns every Christian in so far as his character and conduct are fashioned after the model of Christ, his redeeming Lord. For as with the Resurrection, so also with the Ascension of Christ. He is the first fruits; afterwards all that are His. His ascension is the pledge and guarantee of our final ascension. Why did Christ our Lord ascend? The Psalmist answers: “Because He had clean hands and a pure heart.” Because Christ was perfect in heart and life; it was impossible for Him to be holden of death or of earth, Not only because He was perfect Son of God, but also because He was perfect son of man, He ascended into the heavens. His Ascension was accomplished by the force of a Divine and spiritual necessity--a spiritual necessity engendered by His absolute and unblemished righteousness. As fire ascends towards the sun by a natural law, so by a spiritual law goodness ascends towards God. What is true of Christ in perfection is also true of every Christian in part. All who, in humble faith, imitate His character will, by virtue of the same spiritual necessity which compelled His Ascension, themselves also at length ascend whither He has gone before to prepare a place for them. We must earnestly endeavour to practise the character and imitate the conduct of Christ before we can hope to follow in the shining path of His glorious exaltation. Ascension in heart and mind, in conversation and conduct, must be the forerunners of final, bodily ascension. (Canon Diggle.)

Who shall ascend

Sometimes the question is asked merely from idle curiosity. Sometimes with a sigh of hopelessness, in sheer despair. See the answer of the Psalm. Not only outward morality, but inward purity. His walk, his work, and his conversation must all be absolutely pure; he must be able to bridle his tongue, as well as keep his heart pure. The text comes to us on Ascension Day to tell of one who has climbed this hill. It is because He has gone up before us that we too are able to enter into that heavenly hill. He has ascended up on high, as our great forerunner. This day’s truth once more inspires us with courage. (E. A. Stuart, M. A.)

A great question, and its answer

This introductory question, sung as the procession climbed the steep, had realised what was needed for those who should get the entrance that they sought, and comes to be a very significant and important one.

The question of questions. It lies deep in all men’s hearts, and underlies sacrifices and priesthoods and asceticisms of all sorts. It sometimes rises in the thoughts of the most degraded, and it is present always with some of the better and nobler of men. It indicates that, for life and blessedness, men must get somehow to the side of God, and be quiet there, as children in their father’s house. The universal consciousness is, that this fellowship with God, which is indispensable to a man’s peace, is impossible to a man’s impurity. So the question raises the thought of the consciousness of sin which comes creeping over a man when he is sometimes feeling after God, and seems to batter him in the face and fling him back into the outer darkness. That this question should rise and insist upon being answered as it does proves these three things--man’s need of God, man’s sense of God’s purity, man’s consciousness of his own sin. The “ascent of the hill of the Lord” includes all the present life, and all the future.

The answer to this great question. The Psalm contains the qualifications necessary. They are four. They mean, “Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” An impossible requirement is laid down, broad and stern and unmistakable. But is that all? Read on in Psalm, “He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” So then, the impossible requirement is made possible as a gift to be received. In Jesus Christ there is the new life bestowed that will develop the righteousness far beyond our reach. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The soul’s cry and the true response

The soul’s cry. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” The spirit of this question is, how is fellowship with the great God to be attained? This state of fellowship with God is the great want of human souls. It is--

1. A very elevated state. It is the highest state of moral being. A soul in communion with God is high up above the mists, impurities, and tumults of worldly life.

2. A very holy state. Communion with Him is the holiest condition of souls.

3. A very desirable state. All should ascend, but what is the qualification for ascending? Of all the desirable things in life there is nothing so desirable for man as fellowship with God. For this his nature craves.

The true response.

1. The way of reaching this state.

(1) Moral cleanness. A man may be clean handed so far as the eyes of men are concerned, and black hearted to the eyes of God. The clean hands must be hands washed by the pure sentiments, motives, and aims of a holy heart. The means--

(2) Moral reality,

2. The blessedness of reaching this state. “He shall receive the blessing from the Lord.” This blessing includes all others--loving fellowship with himself, and the possession of conscious and divinely recognised rectitude of character. (Homilist.)

The one requirement

Who may ascend, was a picturesquely appropriate question for singers toiling upwards; and “who may stand?” for those who hoped presently to enter the sacred presence. The ark which they bore had brought disaster to Dagon’s temple, so that the philistine lords had asked in terror, “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?” And at Beth-Shemesh its presence had been so fatal that David had abandoned the design of bringing it up, and said, “How shall the Ark of the Lord come to me?” The answer which lays down the qualifications of true dwellers in Jehovah’s house may be compared with the similar outlines of ideal character in Psalms 15:1-5 and Isaiah 33:14. The one requirement is “purity.” Here that requirement is deduced from the majesty of Jehovah, as set forth in verses 1, 2, and from the designation of His dwelling as “holy.” But this is the postulate of the whole Psalter. In it the approach to Jehovah is purely spiritual, while the outward access is used as a symbol; and the conditions are of the same nature as the approach. The general truth implied is, that the character of the God determines the character of the worshippers. Worship is supreme admiration, culminating in imitation. Its law is always, “They that make them are like unto them; so is everyone that trusteth in them.” A god of war will have warriors, and a god of lust sensualists for his devotees. The worshippers in Jehovah’s holy place must be holy. The details of the answer are but the echoes of a conscience enlightened by the perception of His character. In verse 4 it may be noted that of the four aspects of purity enumerated, the two central refer to the inward life (pure heart; lifts not his desire unto vanity), and these are embedded, as it were, in the outward life of deeds and words. Purity of act is expressed by “clean hands,”--neither red with blood nor foul with grubbing in dunghills for gold and other so-called good. Purity of speech is condensed into the one virtue of truthfulness (swears not to a falsehood). But the outward will only be right if the inward disposition is pure, and that inward purity will only be realised when desires are carefully curbed and directed. As is the desire, so is the man. Therefore the prime requisite for a pure heart is the withdrawal of affection, esteem, and longing from the solid-seeming illusions of sense. “Vanity” has, indeed, the special meaning of idols, but the notion of earthly good apart from God is more relevant here. In verse 5 the possessor of such purity is represented as receiving “a blessing, even righteousness,” from God, which is by many taken to mean beneficence on the part of God, “inasmuch as, according to the Hebrew religious view of the world, all good is regarded as reward from God’s retributive, righteousness, and consequently as that of man’s own righteousness or right conduct” (Hupfeld). The expression is thus equivalent to “salvation” in the next clause. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Character fitness for worship

The occasion of this Psalm is one of the grandest and most illustrious that anywhere occurs in history. By the phrases of ascending into the hill of God and standing in His holy place, the Psalmist would point out the persons who are to be admitted to worship God in His temple. In ascertaining the qualifications of the citizens of the spiritual Jerusalem the Psalmist does not so much as mention the external observances, the costly and laborious rites of the ceremonial law, but dwells alone on the great and essential duties of morality, which are of universal and eternal obligation. The qualifications here are those of the heart and of the life. “Clean hands and a pure heart.” It is not enough that we wash our hands in innocency before men: we must be pure in heart before the eyes of infinite perfection. True religion is religion of the heart; it is a principle dwelling in the mind, that extends its influence through the whole man, and regulates the life. Unless our religion enter the heart we have no religion at all. We can never attain to the true beauties of holiness unless, like the king’s daughters, we be all glorious within. A life sacred to devotion and virtue, sacred to the practice of truth and undefiled religion, joined to a heart pure, pious, and benevolent, constitute an offering more acceptable at the altars of the Most High God than whole hecatombs of burnt offerings and a thousand hills of frankincense in a flame. (J. Logan, F. R. S. E.)

Character developed by association

As soon as spirit touches spirit there springs up between them a relationship which we call moral. Whatever rightly flows from such spiritual contact is morally good. It is in the intercourse of human society that man proves himself to be a moral being. Faith, by admitting us into fresh contact with God and with our fellows, by endowing us with new relationships that have become ours through our inclusion within the new humanity, even the body of Christ, has necessarily laid upon us new moral obligations, responsibilities, and functions, all of which spring out of the very nature of our corporate faith. If we would determine the lines and features of the Christian temper and character we must look to the nature of that great fellowship into which we have been called. The Christian character asked of us is that habit, that activity, which must follow on our acceptance within the assembly of the first born, within the city of God. Whatever that acceptance makes desirable and natural, that is good and that is holy. The Church is a moral conception, a moral condition, by which we are to determine character.

The Church is a household. What are the virtues essential to a household such as our Lord pictures, an organised kingdom of work? Fertile activity. The character will be forthcoming, energetic, stirring. The household demands activity of character, and it asks for a skilled and trained activity. What type and rule of character is suggested by--

The Church as a family. It is a nursery and school of virtue. A family produces a character of courtesy, a sensitive recognition of varying characteristics, a delicate sense of others’ rights. It instills self-repression, self-control, honour for one another, esteem of one another, the stooping of the strong to the weak. Negative self-repression will learn to give itself positive outflow in sympathy, tenderness, and affection.

The Church as a body. What stamp does that great conception set upon character? It adds one peculiar note, the note of witness. A body is in essence the evidence, the proof, the pledge of that which acts through it. Its sole function throughout all its parts is to make manifest that secret presence which animates and directs it. The Christian who is of the body has mission, has vocation. He is there on earth to declare the name, to manifest the glory of God. The Christian character must therefore be stamped with the seal of mission.

The Church as a temple. There is to be positive beauty in the Christian character, It is to be full of delicate and lovely refinement. There is to be a touch upon it of grace, a charm of majesty and consecration. A character built up out of purity and love will have about it also the sense of mystery, the spirit of the temple. Purity and mystery, the temple gifts, where are they? Where are they in us, in our lives, so mixed, so unpurged, and so worldly? Not until we are more evidently of the body and of the temple will men be able to recognise and confess, “this is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek Thy face, O Jacob!” (Canon H. Scott Holland.)

Even he that hath clean hands and a pure heart.--

The pure in heart

High up among some lofty mountains you may at some time have been surprised and delighted by the sudden and unlooked for discovery of a crystal-like lake, nestling cosily amid giant cliffs, or hemmed in and well-nigh hidden from you by a forest of solemn and majestic pines or cedars. By day its placid surface reflected with dazzling splendour the sun’s effulgence; while in the night the lovelier and more subdued glories of the moon and stars were so clearly reflected that the lake seemed transformed into a crystal setting which held these shining, jewels. In like manner is the Psalmist’s assertion of the text but the reflection of that which has ever been in the mind of the Creator, and which later on was enunciated by the God-man in the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” But why such stress upon this virtue of purity? Because--

Impurity is the sin God most hates. In proof, see what brought on the Flood, the destruction of Sodom, and the most terrible punishments which came on God’s people. In the history of nations purity, preeminence, and power go together. Let a nation throw down the statue of Purity and it sounds its own death-knell.

A pure heart purifies all that it approaches. It is so even with the most ferocious natures, and so it is with human beings. A corrupt heart draws out in an hour all that is bad in us; a spiritual one brings out, and draws to itself, all that is best and purest. Such was Christ. He stood in the world the tight of the world, to which all rays of light gradually gathered. He stood in the presence of impurity, and men became pure.

We who are God’s children must seek to become and to be like Him. As light can have no fellowship with darkness, so can there be no fellowship between us and Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Impurity has on the spiritual man precisely the same effect that paralysis has on the physical man. The sin of impurity severs us from Christ.

How may we win this purity of heart? We would say--

1. Stand out firmly against evil thoughts and imaginations. A man’s heart may become so foul that purity refuses any longer to be its guest. Then Satan has won the battle.

2. Be careful as to the influence of your companions.

3. Also be careful as to what you read. Books often blunt the moral sense. Dwell often upon the spotless purity of the Creator, and of the Master while upon earth. Pray daily for grace and power to hate everything that can take away from the whiteness and cleanness of your soul, and to guard against it. (Henry Mottet.)

Spiritual catharsism

This new term, derived from a Greek word signifying purity, has been invented by Mr. Tomlinson to distinguish between ordinary and chemical cleanliness; for the two things are not by any means the same, We imagine that our bodies, when we haw thoroughly washed them, are perfectly free from all impurity; but the chemist proves to us by convincing experiments that, though we wash ourselves with snow water, and make our hands never so clean, we are still unclean. We cannot be made chemically clean by any process which would not injure or destroy us. The slightest exposure to the air--the great receptacle of all impurities--covers our skin with a greasy organic film, which pollutes every substance with which we come into contact. It is well known that the process of crystallisation in chemical solutions is set going by the presence of some impurity, in the shape of motes or dust particles, which act as nuclei around which the salts gather into crystals. But if the solution be protected from all floating impurities by a covering of cotton wool, which filters the air, it may be kept for any length of time at a low temperature without crystallising. A glass rod that is made chemically clean by being washed with strong acids or alkalis, such as sulphuric acid or caustic potash, can be put into the solution without exciting any change in it; but the smallest touch of what the most fastidious would call clean fingers starts at once the process of crystallisation, thus showing that the fingers are not truly clean. Nature is exceedingly dainty in her operations. Unless the agents we employ are stainlessly pure they will not produce the results which we naturally expect from them. Thus, for instance, if we scrape a few fragments from a fresh surface of camphor, and allow them to fall on water that is newly drawn from the cistern tap, into a chemically clean vessel, they will revolve with great rapidity, and sweep over the surface. But if the vessel, before being filled, has been rubbed and polished with a so called clean cloth, or if the water has stood awhile, or if a finger has been placed in it, the particles of camphor will lie perfectly motionless; thus proving that, however clean the cloth or the vessel or the finger may seem, an impurity has been imparted which prevents the camphor from exhibiting its strange movements. Or to adopt a more familiar experiment: if we pour a quantity of lemonade, or any other aerated fluid, into a glass which seems to be perfectly clean and bright, the lemonade will at once effervesce and form bubbles of gas on the sides of the glass. But if we first wash the glass with some strong acid or alkali, and then rinse it thoroughly with fresh water newly drawn, we may pour the lemonade into it and no bubbles will be seen. The reason is, that in the former case the glass was not really clean, and the impurities present acted as nuclei in liberating gas. But in the latter case the glass was really clean, and so could no longer liberate the gas from the liquid. Could we keep it clean we might stir the liquid a whole day and no sparkle would be raised. So, then, in common things, and yet more in spiritual, our utmost purity is a mere relative or comparative thing. We are never really clean. Our idea of purity and God’s idea are two very different things. See Job’s confession, “Now, mine eye seeth Thee; wherefore,” etc. The physical fact is but a faint image of the moral; and chemistry, in showing us the wonderful purity of nature’s operations, gives a new meaning and a deeper emphasis to the declarations of Scripture that nature’s God is “of purer eyes than to behold iniquity.” But to some men the infinite purity of God is a mere proposition exciting no emotion in the soul, a mere scientific truth like the chemist’s talk about cleanliness. To another it is the most intense of all experiences, stirring and transforming the whole nature. Impurity in natural things is caused by waste, disintegration, or combustion, When objects have served their purpose in one form they become effete, and therefore impure. Running water is living water, and therefore is sweet and pure; but whenever it becomes stagnant it loses its life, begins to putrefy, and becomes foul and unwholesome. A rock is called a live rock so long as it is hard and sound in the quarry, “glistens like the sea waves, and rings under the hammer like a brazen bell,” but whenever it is cut out of the quarry and exposed to the air it begins to lose the life that kept its particles together, and crumbles into dust. In its native bed the rock is pure, but when it is weathered by exposure it forms the mud of the highway, or the dust that pollutes everything by its presence. The clay and soil of our fields are caused by the oxidation or burning of pure metals; are, in fact, the ashes of metal’s. The dirt that cleaves to our footsteps, as the emblem of all impurity, is produced by the disintegration of the brightest metals or the most sparkling jewels. We say of a tree, that it is living when it is growing and putting forth foliage and fruit, and in this state it is pure and beautiful; but whenever it ceases to grow it dies, and decay begins, and it harbours all sorts of abominable things, the products of corruption. Everywhere throughout nature impurity is caused by objects ceasing to preserve the natural life that is in them, ceasing to serve the purpose for which they were created. And so is it with man. Impurity in him is caused by the loss of spiritual life. He has broken the law and order of his existence, and his whole nature has disintegrated in an atmosphere of sin. And just as mica is the first product of the purest crystal when it is broken down from the law of its creation, so all impurity in man is the vile product--the rust, as it were--of a nature made in the image of God, through its corruption--that is, as the word implies, its breaking up together by sin. Separated from God, his rock, he has suffered decay in all his parts. Ceasing to grow and abide in the Tree of Life, he has been cast forth as a branch and is withered, the prey of vile lusts and morbid vanities. And this is true of all men. Yet all men are not alike. Many feel incapable of the vices which they see committed around them. But such moral purity as we see in some individuals, causing them to thank God in their hearts that they are not as other men, is like ordinary cleanliness as compared with chemical cleanliness. We think our hands, or a glass of water, or a tablecloth clean; they certainly seem to be pure and spotless; our senses can detect no defilement in them, and for the common purposes of life they may be sufficiently clean. But when we submit them to the test of chemical experiment we find out the hidden impurities, and understand how widely different our notions of cleanliness are from the absolute truth. Chemical cleanliness, I have said, is produced by washing vessels and substances that are employed in experiments in strong sulphuric acid, or with a strong solution of caustic potash, and then rinsing with water. Analogous to these powerful appliances are the means which God often employs to produce moral purity, those chastenings of the flesh and crucifixions of the spirit which are not joyous but grievous. He sends sickness, that wears out the body; trouble, that racks the mind; and sorrow, that takes all the relish out of life. He mortifies self-seeking by disappointment, and humbles pride by failure. He makes lust its own scourge, and the idolatry of the heart its own punishment. By all these searching and terribly energetic purifiers, that corrode the soul as sulphuric acid does the body, He helps forward outwardly the Spirit’s work of renewing in the heart. His will is our sanctification. But it needs the burning heat of severe, oft-repeated, and long-protracted trial, working together with God’s Spirit, to evaporate the incongruous elements of sin and sense that make us impure, and to build up the pure transparent crystal of Christian simplicity. And this process is ever going on,--and amid the common exposures of our daily work. Not out of the world, but in the world, are found the disciplines which purify the soul. (Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)

The qualifications for our heavenly ascension

This Psalm is associated with the removal of the ark of the Lord to the temple which stood on Mount Zion. It sets forth those who should be regarded as qualified to ascend Mount Zion, and take part in the proceedings of that memorable day.

Clean hands. The Jews attached great importance to clean hands, especially before eating and worshipping. In the literal sense, clean hands may not be regarded as a necessary qualification for Christians in order to their admission to the true holy place, which is heaven, but rather what clean hands typify and represent in a spiritual sense. Our hands are the representatives of our actions. Therefore clean hands, to us Christians, would mean what we understand by stainless conduct. They mean lawful and right, honest and irreproachable actions. Our hands, our practical conduct, must be clean, morally unstained, undefiled, if we are to follow in the track of Christ’s ascension.

A pure heart. The character of a man’s heart determines, above all things, his standing in the sight of God, his fitness to see God. Clean hands without a pure heart, an outward stainless life without the inward spirit of purity, will not suffice to admit a man to the holy place of God’s presence. What is a pure heart? It means that the fountain source of a man’s nature, from which flow all the streams of his life, is unpolluted by sensual lusts, by forbidden passions, by foul imaginations, or by anything whatever that is morally unclean. By a pure heart is meant not simply a chaste heart, but an altogether uncorrupt heart, of which chastity is only one of many forms.

Hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity. Hebrew, “hath not set his heart upon a thing of nought.” Not fixed his heart upon things whose intrinsic value is worthless; such things as money, titles, society, worldly knowledge, earthly treasures, and the pleasures of this life. He does not set his affections on things of the earth. He does not allow them to take that place in his heart which is due to God, and to God only.

Nor sworn deceitfully. By this is meant swearing falsely, taking an oath to a lie. The man who shall stand in God’s holy place must be a “man of truth”; a man like Nathaniel, in whom there is no guile, no artfulness, no pretence, no insincerity, no hypocrisy, no unreality, no untruth in any shape whatever. He must also be true “in the inward parts,” in his motives, aims, intentions, and aspirations. Ascending to heaven is a matter of spiritual character. Then who, among ordinary mortals, is really qualified for ascending to heaven? All that we can do is to keep the standard daily before our eyes, and do our honest best to reach it as far as possible. The life we are now living day by day may be an ascending life, ever moving upward, heavenward, Christ-ward. (H. G. Youard.)

Verse 5

Psalms 24:5

And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

God’s blessing of righteousness

The first glance at these words might suggest that they told us one of the rewards which the man who had fulfilled the preceding requirements received from God. But that would he but a poor thing to say; there would neither be gospel nor logic, as it seems to me, in it. For, according to that, all that was said here would simply be that, if a man would make himself righteous, God would then make him righteous; that if a man cleansed his heart, and got his hands pure and his soul fixed upon God and his lips truthful, then, after that, God would give him righteousness, which, by the hypothesis, he has already got. I do not think that is the meaning of the words, both because such a meaning would destroy the sequence of thought, and because a man cannot so make himself righteous at all. It is more natural to take these words as carrying on the description of the man who is fit to stand in the holy place, than as introducing the new thought of certain other blessings which the righteous man of the previous verse receives. So regarded, we have a deep thought here in answer to the unspoken doubt which must needs arise on hearing such conditions. One can well fancy the hearer replying, your statement of qualifications is only a round-about way of saying No one: how can I or anybody attain these requirements? If these be necessary, we may as well loiter in the flowery vales below as toil up only to see Alps on Alps arise, and the temple shining far above us, inaccessible after all. But if we rightly grasp the sequence of thought here, we have here the blessed truth that God’s impossible requirements are God’s great gifts. We may put that as the second great principle in these verses: the men who are pure receive purity as a gift from God. God will give righteousness. That means here outward and inner purity, or, in effect, the sum of the qualifications already insisted on. That is a grand thought, though it sounds strange to some men, that moral condition--a certain state of heart and mind--can be given to a man. Many people dismiss such a hope as an illusion, and smile at such a gospel as an impossibility. So it is for us. We can but try to bring motives and influences to bear on one another which may tend to shape character. But God can work on the springs of thought and will, and can put into our hearts purity and righteousness, however alien and remote they may be from our natural dispositions and from our past lives. Another great truth here is, that God can put into a man’s heart someone germinal principle which shall develop and flower out into all graces and purities and beauties of character: all these things that make up the qualifications, they can all be given to a man in germ from God’s own hand. Still further, these words imply that righteousness, in the sense of purity and holiness, is salvation. “He shall receive righteousness from the God of his salvation.” David did not merely think of salvation as merely temporal deliverance, and we are not to think of mere deliverance from external punishment or some material hell as exhausting its meaning, but to understand that the main part of salvation is that God shall impart to us Himself, and fill our souls with His righteousness. But we have to remember that all this is made a great deal more plain to us in Jesus Christ. He comes and brings to us a righteousness by which we shall be made pure if we will only love Him and trust Him, and in our hearts there will bloom and grow the exotics of holy and virtuous character, and our lives will be fragrant with the precious fruits of holy and virtuous conduct. By the implanting within us of His own Spirit, by the new life kindred with His own, which we thence derive, of which righteousness is the very life breath--for, as Paul says, “The renewed spirit is life because of righteousness”--as well as by the mere ordinary means of bringing new and powerful motives to holiness, by the attraction of His own example, and by love which moulds to likeness, Christ gives us righteousness, and implants at least the germ of all purity. The last thought here is--the men who receive righteousness are the men who seek it from God. “This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek Thy face,” and, as the last words ought to be rendered, “this is Jacob, the true Israel.” So then there is an answer to another unspoken question that might arise. The question might still remain--How am I to get this great gift? The Psalmist believed in a heart of love so deep and so Divine that there Was nothing more needed in order to get all the fulness of His righteousness and purity into our stained spirits, but simply to ask for it. To desire is to have, to seek is to possess, to wish is to be enriched with all this purity. And we know how, beyond the Psalmist’s anticipations and the prophet’s hopes, that great giving love of God has drawn near to man, in the unspeakable gift of His dear Son, in whom the most sinful amongst us has righteousness, and the weakest amongst us has strength. And we know how the one condition which is needed in order that there should pour down into our foul hearts the cleansing flood of His granted righteousness, is simply that we should be willing to accept, that we should desire to possess, and that we should turn to Christ and get from Him that which He gives. In this world things of little worth have to be toiled for. Nothing for nothing is the inexorable law in the world’s markets, but God sells without money and without price. Life and the air which sustains it are gifts. We have to work for smaller things. In the sweat of our brow we have to win the bread that perishes, but the bread of life “the Son of Man will give unto us,” and of it we have but to “take and eat.” “‘Tis only heaven can be had for the asking, ‘Tis only God that is given away.” Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Men have been asking all through the ages, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” They have built for themselves Babels “that their tops might reach heaven,” but it has been all in vain. You have tried to climb. Your progress has been slow, like that of some crawling insect upon some smooth surface--an inch in advance with immense pains, and then a great slide backwards. But heaven bends down to us, and Christ puts down the palm of His hand, if I may say so, and bids us step on to it, and so bears us up on His hands. We shall not rise without our own efforts and many a hard struggle, but He will give us the power to struggle, and the certainty that we shall not set a stout heart to a steep hill in vain. So put away your hopelessness, and cease your painful toils. “Say not in thine heart who shall ascend into heaven--the word is nigh thee,”--even the word of promise that trusting to Christ, and filled with His strength, we shall mount up with wings as eagles. The conditions may seem hard and even impossible, amounting to a perpetual sentence of exclusion from the presence of God, and therefore from light and well-being. But be of good cheer. If you hunger and thirst after righteousness you shall be filled. Seek God in Christ, and then, though nothing that has not wings can reach the steep summit, you will have the wings of faith and love budding on your shoulders with which you may reach it, and be invested by your righteous Saviour with that “fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints,” arrayed in which you will be fit to pass into the secret place of the Most High, and to dwell for evermore in the blaze of that pure Light. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The gift of righteousness

Among the Mexican Catholics there used to be great anxiety to provide themselves with a priest’s cast-off robe to be buried in. These were begged or bought as the greatest of treasures; kept in sight or always at hand to remind them of approaching death. When their last hour drew near this robe was flung over their breasts and they died happy, their stiffening fingers grasping its folds. The robe of Christ’s righteousness is not provided for the dying hour merely, for the hasty investiture of the spirit when about to be ushered into the presence of the King.

Verses 7-8

Psalms 24:7-8

Lift up your heads, O ye gates.

The ascension of Christ

It is generally admitted by expositors that these words have a secondary, if not a primary, reference to the return of the Mediator to heaven, when He had accomplished the work of human redemption. Bishop Horsley affirms that the Jehovah of this Psalm must be Christ; and the entrance of the Redeemer into the kingdom of His Father is the event prophetically announced. But you will say, Are we to rejoice in the departure of our Lord from His Church? Suppose that Christ had not been exalted to the right hand of God, would not the supposition materially affect our spiritual condition? The resurrection of Christ was both the proof and consequence of the completeness of His mediatorial work. If He had remained in the grave we could only have regarded Him as a man like one of ourselves: we could not have looked on Him as our substitute. It is easy to certify ourselves of the indispensableness of the resurrection, but why may not the risen Mediator remain with His Church? We reply, the reception of our nature, in the person of our surety, into heavenly places, was necessary to our comfort and assurance. So long as Christ remained on earth there was no evidence that He had won for our nature readmission to the paradise from which it had been exiled. If He had not returned to the Father we must always have feared that our redemption was incomplete. The plan of redemption was designed to reveal to the world the Trinity of the Godhead. There could not have been the thorough manifestation of the Divinity of the Son had not Christ ascended up on high. His ascension and exaltation may well furnish us with great matter of rejoicing. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

The two ascensions of Christ

“The King of glory” is our Lord Jesus Christ, as we acknowledge Him every morning in the Te Deum, “Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.” He is the King of glory, the Giver and Owner of life and glory; the Brightness of His Father’s glory and the express Image of His Person. That holy Son had on the day of His incarnation emptied Himself of His glory for a while, and had become like unto the meanest of His creatures. On the day of His crucifixion He offered up all His humiliation, for a sacrifice to His Father; on His resurrection day He showed Himself ready to take His glory again; and on this ascension day He actually took it. The King of glory is Christ the Lord of Hosts, and the gates which He commands to be opened to Him are the gates of heaven--the gates of His own chief city, to which He is returning as David returned to Jerusalem, after His triumphant warfare against His and our enemies. He returns, as the Lord mighty in battle, having bruised Satan under His feet, first in His temptation, then in His passion on the Cross, lastly in His descent into hell. And as David came accompanied by his guards and soldiers, who had been fighting on his side, and could not but rejoice, as faithful and dutiful subjects, in their king’s victory; so the Psalm represents the Son of David returning to the Father’s right hand with a guard of angels; who, as they come near the holy and awful gate, cry aloud and say, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.” But why is the song repeated? Why are the everlasting gates invited to lift up their heads a second time? We may not pretend, here or in any place, to know all the meaning of the Divine Psalms. But what if the repetition of the verse was meant to put us in mind that our Saviour’s ascension will be repeated also? He will not indeed die any more; death can no more have any dominion over Him; “there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin.” Neither, of course, can He rise again any more. But as He will come again at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead, so after that descent He will have to ascend again. Now observe the answer made this second time. Christ ascending the first time, to intercede for us at His Father’s right hand, is called “the Lord mighty in battle.” But Christ, ascending the second time, after the world hath been judged, and the good and bad separated forever, is called “the Lord of Hosts.” Why this difference in His Divine titles? We may reverently take it, that it signifies to us the difference between His first and second coming down to earth, His first and second ascension into heaven. As in other respects His first coming was in great humility, so in this, that He came in all appearance alone. The angels were indeed waiting round Him, but not visibly, not in glory. “He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him.” He wrestled with death, hell, and Satan alone: alone He went up into heaven. Thus He showed Himself “the Lord mighty in battle,” mighty in that single combat. But when He shall come down and go up the second time, He will show Himself “the Lord of Hosts.” Instead of coming down alone, in mysterious silence, as in His wonderful incarnation, He will be followed by all the Armies of heaven. “The Lord my God will come, and all His saints with Him.” “The Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints.” Thus He will come down as the Lord of Hosts, and as the Lord of Hosts He will ascend again to His Father. After the judgment He will pass again through the everlasting doors, with a greater company than before; for He will lead along with Him, into the heavenly habitations, all those who shall have been raised from their graves and found worthy. This is Christ’s second and more glorious ascension, in which He will be visibly and openly accompanied by the souls and bodies of the righteous, changed and made glorious, like unto His glorious body. The angels and saints will come with Him from heaven, and both they and all good Christians will return with Him thither. (J. Keble.)

The three processions

The primary reference of the text. See the account of the removal of the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem.

The similar scene in the New Testament. The triumphal procession on palm Sunday. That procession could boast but few circumstances of dignity and majesty.

The spiritual passage of Christ by faith into the stronghold of the heart of man.

1. The heart is susceptible of comparison in many particulars with the literal city of Jerusalem.

2. The remedy is to be found in admission of Christ into the heart. He alone can thoroughly cleanse the desecrated temple.

3. Therefore lay aside your pride and self-righteousness, and become Christ’s disciples.

The second advent is hastening forward. That progress is to be triumphant in character. Its issue must be certain victory. (E. M. Goulburn, D. C. L.)

Verse 8

Psalms 24:8

Who is this King of glory.

The King of glory

In the old days, when the king of England wished to enter the city of London through Temple Bar, the gate being closed against him, the herald advanced and demanded entrance. “Open the gate,” shouted the herald. “Who is there?” questioned a voice from within. “The king of England!” answered the herald. The gate was at once opened, and the king passed, amid the acclamations of the people. But the custom was an old one, and stretched back perhaps thousands of years before England was known under that name. Jesus is our “King of glory.” He is our Lord, “strong and mighty in battle” We may apply it very fitly to Christ’s ascension to heaven after His life and suffering and death and resurrection here on the earth. When Christ came to be born in Bethlehem He put aside the glory which He had before the world was, and, though He was rich, for our sakes He became poor. As one of the old preachers said, Christ has gone to heaven as a victor; leading sin, Satan, death, hell, and all His enemies in triumph at His chariot wheels. Christ went back to heaven after the mightiest battle ever fought in the universe, and went back triumphant over sin and death. We might properly apply these words to the coming of Christ, to the life of man, and to the civilisation of the world. Christ has been taking possession of the life of mankind. He is King of glory in modern civilisation. In spite of all the wickedness there is in the world, it has already come about that the most dominant personality in it is Christ. Christ has possessed and become King of glory in the very counting of the years in modern centuries. Christ has knocked at the gates of the world of art, and He is the King of glory in it. Go back and look at the works of the great masters and you will see that they are pictures of the Christ. And when, in modern times, has the world of art and modern invention in illustration been so stirred as in Tissot’s “Life of Christ in Art”? Christ has knocked at the door of literature, and He is the King of glory in the literature of the world. Where there is one book written against Christ there are a hundred thousand books written to illustrate His teaching or impress the lessons of His life. We may apply it also with great appropriateness to the door of our hearts. (L. A. Banks, D. D.)

Verse 9

Psalms 24:9

Lift up your heads, O ye gates.

A triumphal entrance

The great thing to desire is the entrance of the king of glory into our souls. Without it thou wilt be like a house without a tenant--cold, cheerless, dilapidated, desolate. Thy heart will be as a nest without a bird--a poor, sad thing.

There are impediments to this coming into our hearts. The text speaks about “doors” and “gates,” and there are such to our hearts, and they need to be “lifted up” ere the King of glory can come in, Sometimes it is our wicked prejudice. We do not want to know the Gospel; or our love of sin, which we do not care to give up. Then there is the door which I may call the iron gate, that entereth into the city--the door of unbelief. That unbelief is the ruin of souls.

If Christ is to enter we must be willing to remove all these. The text says, “Lift up your heads,” as if they were to lift them up themselves. Though salvation is of grace, it is never against, but always with our will.

It is grace that must enable you to be thus willing. Picture the inhabitants trying to lift up the gates themselves. They cannot, and what shall they do? An invisible spirit stands by them, puts his power with theirs, and up go the gates.

Jesus will enter. He was willing to come in before: the unwillingness was all in us.

And He is the King of glory. This title belongs to the Saviour. It proclaims Him in His highest authority. What peerless prince is this, with a name above every name? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ the High Priest of our profession in heaven

The common notion seems to be that all the offices of the Mediator to us-ward took place before the ascension. Consistently with this belief that high festival is despised and neglected. The truth is, that His acts after His ascension are as distinct and important as those which took place before that event. It was not till the ascension that He offered “gifts and sacrifices for men.” As the efficacy of the slain victim of old depended on its blood being brought into “the holiest of all,” so the efficacy of that sacrifice consummated on the Cross depends and is assured to us by its continual presentation by our Mediator in heaven. The heavenly gates have been lifted up, and the King of glory has gone in. But “who is this King of glory?” The Eternal Son of the Father, clad with the white robe of expiation, girt with the golden zone of the priesthood, pleading the cause not only of the Church at large, but of every individual member thereof. There is not a trial we have, as we pass through this vale of tears, but He knows it and recognises it as the lot of humanity from His own actual experience. (T. Huntington, M. A.)

The triumphant ascension of Christ into heaven

Every circumstance in this description is suited to impress us with a lofty sense of the majesty of the Son of God.

1. He is described as a powerful conqueror. In what conflicts has He been engaged? We can speak of Him as having overcome the world, and as subduing the great enemy of man and bruising the serpent’s head.

2. The universal sovereign. Note His preeminent dignity. He is seated upon the throne of the universe.

3. He is “the King of glory.” This title includes in its meaning the substance of the description previously given. This is a subject in which we all are deeply concerned. For henceforth we can look to Christ as our Mediator at the right hand of God; as the Head of His Church, and the Author of all spiritual blessings; and as opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Lessons--

(1) The subject is suited to inspire us with a sure trust in the Captain of our Salvation.

(2) It invites us to have our thoughts and affections in heaven.

(3) It teaches us to look forward to another ascension yet in futurity, and calls us to prepare for it. (Will. Dealtry, D. D.)

The ascension of Christ

Consider the prophetic reference of these striking words. The ark was the type of Christ. We may regard the removal of the ark to Mount Zion as typifying Christ’s ascension to the heavenly Jerusalem.

The title which is here given to Him. “The King of glory.” When He lived among men little did He appear like a king at all. But in spite of all mockeries He was a King even then. There are multitudes who have still low thoughts of the Lord Jesus, and there are many religious systems whose tendency is to produce such a result.

The dignity and blessedness claimed for Him. Admission into the heavenly mansions. Who are the persons that Claim for Him this high honour? The angelic hosts. And the spirits of just men made perfect took part. See the right which He had to the honour and blessedness which were now claimed for Him. That is taken for granted. No favour is craved. Admission is not a privilege implored or supplicated. He had a right to the heavenly kingdom as the promised reward of His toils and sufferings. He had also a right on the ground of conquest. The connection between the victory which He won and the glories which awaited Him is quite obvious.

The reception which awaited Him. Here we can say but little, for on such a theme poor is thought, and altogether impotent the most emphatic expressions. Well may we, therefore, rejoice in the ascension of Christ. With the fact of the ascension we should combine its special objects and purposes. They relate not to Himself alone, but to us likewise. The ascension of Christ should remind us of the glorious, yet solemn and momentous, fact of His second coming. (Expository Outlines.)

An urgent demand, and an earnest inquiry

The demand. It may be applied to three events--

1. To the entrance of the ark into the holy city (2 Samuel 6:1-23; l Chronicles 15).

2. To the advent of Christ at His incarnation. The doors and gates of the world’s heart were shut against Him. “He came to His own,” etc.

3. To the ascension of Christ into heaven.

4. To the admission of Christ into the human heart. “In the Gospel history,” says an old writer, “Christ had a four-fold entertainment amongst men. Some received Him into their house, but not into their heart, as Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:44). Some into the heart, but not into the house, as the faithful centurion (Matthew 8:8). Some into neither, as the faithless Gergesenes (Matthew 8:34). Some into both, as Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.” And Christ now seeks admission into men’s hearts, but the gates are closed.

5. To the return of Christ to heaven at last. “After the judgment,” says Keble, “He will pass again through the everlasting doors with a greater company than before; for He will lead along with Him into the heavenly habitation all those who shall have been raised from their graves and found worthy (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).

An earnest inquiry. Who is this King of glory? The question is twice put. None can be of greater importance. The answer tells.

1. That He is one strong in Himself. “The Lord strong.”

2. That He is “mighty in battle.” His conquests are moral, and how numerous, constant, universal, and ever-multiplying they are.

3. That He is vast in command. “The Lord of hosts.” All material existences, all spiritual are His hosts: the heavenly orbs are His hosts. He marshals them as a commander his battalions. (D. Thomas, D. D.)

The God who dwells with men

Notice the application, the historical and original application, to the King who dwelt with Israel. But the texts speak of the Christ who dwells with men. The devout hearts in Israel felt that there was something more needed than this dwelling of Jehovah within an earthly temple, and the process of revelation familiarised them with the thought that there was yet in the future a “coming of the Lord” in some special manner unknown to them. When was that fulfilled? Christ is the highest raying out of the Divine light, and the mightiest exhibition of the Divine power. Application of these words to the Christ who will dwell in your hearts. His historical manifestation here upon earth, and His incarnation, which is the true dwelling of Deity amongst men, are not enough. They have left something more than a memory to the world. He is as ready to abide, as really within our spirits, as He was to tabernacle upon earth amongst men. And the very central idea of that Gospel which is proclaimed to you all is this, that if you will open the gates of your hearts He will come in, in all the plenitude of His victorious power, and dwell in your hearts, their Conqueror and their King. What a strange contrast, and yet what a close analogy there is between the victorious tones and martial air of this summons of my text, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates! that the King of glory may come in, and the gentle words of the Apocalypse, Behold. I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice and open the door I will come in to him.” But He that in the Old Covenant, arrayed in warrior arms, summoned the rebels to surrender, is the same as He who in the New, with the night dews in His hair and patience on His face and gentleness in the touch of His hand upon the door, waits to enter in. Open your hearts, “and the King of glory shall come in.” And He will come in as a King that might seek to enter sonic besieged and beleaguered city far away on the outposts of His kingdom. If the relieving force can be thrown into Khartoum, the clouds of enemies will scatter. If the King comes in, the city will be impregnable. If you open your hearts for Him He will come and keep you from all your foes, and give you the victory over them all. So to every hard-pressed heart, waging an unequal contest with toils and temptations and sorrows and sins, this great hope is given, that Christ the Victor will come in His power to garrison heart and mind. As of old the encouragement was given to Hezekiah in his hour of peril, when the might of Sennacherib insolently threatened Jerusalem, so the same stirring assurances are given to each who admits Christ’s succours to his heart. “He shall not come into this city, for I will defend this city to save it for Mine own sake.” Open your hearts and the conquering King shall come in. And do not forget that there is another possible application of these words, lying in the future, to the conquering Christ who shall come again. The whole history of the past points onwards to yet a last time when “the Lord shall suddenly come to His Temple,” and that Christ shall so come in like manner as He went into heaven. Again shall the summons ring out. Again shall He come arrayed in flashing brightness, and the visible robes of His imperial majesty. Again shall He appear mighty in battle, when in righteousness He shall judge and make war. For a Christian one great memory tills the past--Christ has come; and one great hope brightens the else waste future--Christ shall come. That hope has been far too much left to be cherished only by those who hold a particular opinion as to the chronology of unfulfilled prophecy. But it should be to every Christian heart “the blessed hope,” even the appearing of the glory of Him who has come in the past. He is with and in us in the present. He will come in the future “in His glory, and shall sit upon the throne of His glory.” All our pardon and hope of God’s love depends upon that great fact in the past, that “the Lord was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.” Our purity which will fit us to dwell with God, our present blessedness, all our power for daily strife, and our companionship in daily loneliness, depend on the present fact that He dwells in our hearts by faith, the seed of all good, and the conquering antagonist of every evil. And the one light which fills the future with hope, peaceful because assured, streams from that most sure promise that He will come again, sweeping from the highest heavens, on His head the many crowns of universal monarchy, in His hand the weapons of all-conquering power, and none shall need to ask, “Who is this King of glory?” for every eye shall know Him, the Judge upon His throne, to be the Christ of the Cross. Open the doors of your hearts to Him, as He sues for entrance now in the meekness of His patient love, that on you may fall in that day of the coming of the King the blessing of the servants “who wait for their returning Lord,” that when He cometh and knocketh they may open unto Him immediately. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Christ demanding admission into sinners’ hearts

1. Entrance solemnly demanded. The demand is addressed to the gates (that is, princes or heads.

Vulg.). Hence it is understood of Christ’s ascension into heaven. Literally, by the gates are recant those of the Temple, which was a type of heaven. The gates were to be thrown wide open, as was fitting when the ark should enter. It tells of the receiving of Christ into the soul.

2. For whom the demand is made--for the Lord Jesus Christ. When the ark of Gospel ordinances comes, Christ Himself comes to the hearts of sinners for admission.

Inquire what is the ark of Gospel ordinances.

1. The Word read and preached.

2. The two sacraments.

How Christ comes to sinners.

1. With the offer of Himself.

2. Exhibiting Himself in the sacraments.

3. In both He demands admission.

Inferences from the foregoing.

1. The presence of Gospel ordinances shows that Christ is come to our hearts seeking admission.

2. This coming will aggravate the condemnation of those who refuse.

What is it to open the heart to Christ? There is an initial opening at conversion, and a progressive one afterwards. The opening of the door of the understanding and of the will.

Why we should do this? The house is His own. The Father who gave it to Him demands this. It was solemnly made over to Him at your baptism. Some will not so much as open the outer door. Others, not the inner door.

1. It is Satan who keeps Christ out.

2. See who it is that seeks admission. The King of glory.

3. How unworthy the house is of Him.

4. Note His condescension--He will come if you open.

5. This offer cost Him dear.

6. Your positions will be one day reversed.

7. You are solemnly called now.

8. The offer will not last always.

9. There is no other way to be saved. (T. Boston, D. D.)

Man’s Brother in heaven

When we were in Cuba a young woman over at Marianne told us she walked over to Morro Castle every morning. It was a long walk, and she said she did it because her brother was a prisoner there. She had never been inside that castle, and had no interest in it until her brother had been incarcerated there; and then every morning that sister walked all the way from Marianne to the great castle, and looked at it until she could count every stone and knew every tower, and knew the colour of every archway, and recognised the position of every sentry. She was interested in the castle because she had a brother there. We would be interested in heaven’s towers, and would count its embattlements, and would love to read about and study it, if we appreciated the value of our Christ who is there. (R. H. Conwell, D. D.)


Psalms 25:1-22

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 24". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/psalms-24.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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