by Rev. Mark Robinson
In the pursuit of everyday life, mankind is oblivious to the sovereignty of the divine King of kings. The world, and its problems, seems to continually turn with no answers to the dilemmas of life. Islamic terrorism, the cultural and philosophical divide between liberals and conservatives, and economic crises nationally and individually are just some of the issues we face. In response to these seemingly insurmountable challenges, man oftentimes turns inward. The attitude thus manifested is one of self-indulgence, and the conclusion that at the end of everything is simply one=s self. In the United States, more than ever, we are saturated with the thought of narcissism – the love of one=s self. The desires, plans and thoughts so prevalent in our society epitomize this concept. We have become an entitlement people, a nation of victims. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this, as the Bible continually reminds us that our sin nature produces a self-indulgent person.
No nation, people or individual can survive with this rationale. Ultimately, judgment will come from a sovereign God to a self-centered people. Typical of this truth is the ancient nation of Babylon. Resplendent in her glory, Babylon was a nation known for its architecture, education, power, wealth and beauty. It was probably the greatest city the world has known. Isaiah, prophesying about the judgment to come upon Babylon, brings the thought “I am an end in myself” to center stage as a reason behind the judgment.
A…thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and knowledge, it hath perverted thee: and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee…@ Isaiah 47:10-11.
The world today is heading in that same direction. We have forgotten the divine law to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as our self. Our society is incessant in its pursuit of self-gratification. From the opulence of the entertainment industry – sports, theater, movies, etc. – to the permissive mores of our sexually indulgent society, to the drug-dependent nation that we have become, we see man=s endless pursuit is: A…take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry,@Luke 12:19.
In a civilization preoccupied with self, as basically all have been since the fall of man, Psalm 24 gives a clarion call to the hearts and minds of all people. This Messianic Psalm stands out in majesty and splendor, sovereignty and grace, divine rule and ownership of all. This seal of ownership is indelibly stamped upon all of God=s creation.
AThe earth is the Lord=s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they who dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods@ (vv. 1-2).
An inventor has exclusive ownership over his invention; a designer has exclusive ownership over his design; a builder has exclusive ownership over his building; the Creator has exclusive ownership over His creation. At best, we are unprofitable stewards of the abundance and riches of God.
It is the height of folly for man to think he is an end in himself. The ground we walk on, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the air we breathe are gifts from the Owner of all things. The unrelenting cry of the prophets is the necessity of submission of all things to the sovereign God of the universe, who owns all things. As God the Creator states,
AThe silver is mine, and the gold is mine…@ Haggai 2:8.
A…every beast of the forest is mine…@ Psalm 50:10.
A…for the land is mine…@ Leviticus 25:23.
A…Behold, all souls are mine,@ Ezekiel 18:4.
A…For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee,@ 1 Chronicles 29:14.
It is by the grace of God that we live. If we are wealthy, it is because God has enabled us (Deuteronomy 8:17-18); our physical makeup has been fashioned by Him (Psalm 139:13-16); the food we eat is provided by Him (Psalm 104:14). The one vital necessity of man is to recognize his Creator, and yet, ATheir inward thoughts is that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names@ (Psalm 49:11).
In the very beginning of this illustrious Psalm, the psalmist proclaims the eternal truth of the sovereign God. In Romans 11:36 this truth is driven home: AFor of him, and through him, and to him, are all things….@ The initial declaration of this Messianic Psalm is God=s claim not only on the material goods that make up your life, or your loved ones who bring you joy, but your very life itself.
The stamp of God=s ownership on mankind through His creation of us does not guarantee man of eternal salvation. Although all things, including man, belong to God by creation, not all men will Adwell in the house of the Lord forever,@ Psalm 23:6. In verses three through six, the psalmist addresses and then answers the question of who will dwell with God:
AWho shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He who hath clean hands, and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is the generation of them who seek him, who seek thy face, O Jacob@ (vv. 3-6).
The people of any age, any generation, who seek the Lord, will find Him. The initial qualification for the Kingdom of God is a thirsting after righteousness, a desire to know Him, a compulsion to find Him, a longing for the God of Israel. Replete throughout the Scriptures is the promise to a searching and seeking heart:
AHo, every one that thirsteth, come…@ Isaiah 55:1.
AAnd ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart=@ Jeremiah 29:13.
ABut if from there thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul@ Deuteronomy 4:29.
To those who thirst, to those who seek, to those who call, to those who come, is the promise of God of clean hands and a pure heart in His sight.
As man comes closer to a knowledge and understanding of a holy God, he is more and more confronted with his own filthiness and uncleanness in the sight of God. The nearer one comes to a righteous God, the more unrighteousness one becomes in his own eyes. It is this dichotomy between God and man that comes to the forefront. David recognized this when he said, AI acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me@(Psalm 51:3). When Isaiah saw the glory of a holy God he cried out, A…Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips…@(Isaiah 6:5). In Jesus= parable of a self-righteous man and a humble publican, in Luke 18, it was the publican who was justified as he called out, AGod be merciful to me a sinner.@ When we recognize that Aall our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,@ Isaiah 64:6, that we are helpless and hopeless before a perfectly holy God, that a great gulf of sin separates us from God, it is then that God can impart to us clean hands and a pure heart. It is that person who receives the salvation and blessing of God. To him shall be imputed the righteousness of God, the righteousness of salvation that only comes from God.
The message of the prophets is that it is the Messiah who brings salvation. It is in the Lord that we have righteousness, Isaiah 45:24. The Messiah will be called A…THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS,@ Jeremiah 23:6. And, AFor Christ [Messiah] is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth,@ Romans 10:4. It is Jesus who is the embodiment of the righteousness of God. He paid our sin penalty, being Himself righteous, that we might have the needed perfection, through Him, to stand in the Lord=s holy place.
For millennia, Israel has longed for her promised King. The detailed promises of a literal, earthly kingdom throughout the pages of the Bible long for the Ruler of that kingdom to come and establish it. The psalmist closes this psalm with an exhortation to the people of Israel to receive their King, the Lord of hosts.
ALift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory@ Psalm 24:7-10.
The imagery of the gates and everlasting doors is clear in its purpose. It is a plea to the people of the Bible, the Jews, to receive their King. To a people with an everlasting covenant from a faithful God is given the command to open their hearts and lives, so that the King will come in.
It was David himself who received the promise that the Messiah, the King, would come through his family:
AFor unto us a child is born, unto is a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this@ Isaiah 9:6-7.
The Son of David will sit on the throne of David and rule the Kingdom. It is David who pleads with the people to open the gates. The portrait painted (closed doors and gates) is one of a nation that needs to recognize and accept her Messiah. The truth of this depiction is seen when one reads a few of the Messianic passage of the Old Testament that speak of Israel=s rejection of their Messiah.
AHe is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all@ Isaiah 53:3-6.
AAnd after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself…,@ Daniel 9:26
As prophesied, the Messiah came in the person of Jesus and was rejected by the nation of Israel as a whole. It is His longing that Israel accepts Him as their promised Messiah and King. It is only then, when the people of Israel open their doors and gates, that He will enter.
In prophetic anticipation, the Hebrew prophet Zechariah speaks of that day when A…they [Israel] shall look upon me [Messiah Jesus] whom they have pierced…@ Zechariah 12:10. Jesus, as He wept over Jerusalem, proclaimed, AO Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,@ Matthew 23:37-39.
The long awaited King, the Messiah, will finally have come. As the nation of Israel receives her Messiah, they recognize who this King of glory is. The King is Jehovah, the Commander of the heavenly armies. He has come and delivered them in battle from the nations of the world (Zechariah 14:1-3) and will now set up His kingdom. It is at this time that the people of Israel recognize the Messiah as the A…King of Israel, even the Lord, [who] is in the midst of thee…@Zephaniah 3:15.
The grandeur of the Kingdom will finally have arrived. Jesus the Messiah, King, Jehovah God, will have come to set up His Kingdom. Their hands will be clean and their hearts pure, as they enter into the presence of the Lord, because they Ahave looked upon me [Jesus] whom they have pierced,@ Zechariah 12:10. The gates and doors are no more closed. They are opened B to their Messiah, King, and Savior! Jesus!