By Les Henson.
Part two of a three part series on Psalm 24.
Psalm 24:3-6 NRSV
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. 5 They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation. 6 Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
The Psalmist, David, having considered the splendour of the Lord as Creator and Sustainer (vs 1-2). Now turns to the nature and character of the person who can enter into the presence of a holy God; ascend to the holy hill of the Lord; and stand in His holy place (v 3). David is reflecting on going up to Jerusalem and ascending the holy hill with his all people Israel. He is pondering taking the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem and entering the holy place, the Tabernacle, the very symbol of God’s presence among his people Israel.
In doing so, his thoughts turn to the kind of person who might enter into God’s holy presence. As Creator and Sustainer of the earth and all within it, God is not only powerful, but He is also holy. Thus, those who enter into the presence of God to worship Him must be holy as the Lord, God of Israel in Holy.
Now in verse 4, David responds to his own question by outlining the nature and character of those that may enter into God’s holy presence, “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.” In other words, they must be holy like God is holy. Such a person must be clean, pure, and undefiled by idolatry and deceit or ritual uncleanness. Yet we need to be careful for he is referring to someone whole rather than perfect, someone who follows God wholeheartedly despite their weaknesses and failures. Thankfully, we can ask God’s forgiveness for what we have done, yet we must also desire to be people who follow God and live by the law that He has written on our hearts and in His word.
In their thoughts and actions, they are to diligently and wholeheartedly seek to be pure of heart and clean of hands. They are to be the kind of person who avoids idolatry and ritual uncleanness, and who earnestly desires the truth and does not seek to lie or deceive either God, those around them or themselves. So, their thoughts, actions and speech are worthy of God. Thus, they may enter into God’s holy presence.
In verse 5, we see God’s response to those who come before Him with ‘clean hands and pure hearts ’- act justly and live rightly. “They will receive blessing from the Lord, and vindication from the God of their salvation.” Those who walk with integrity and uprightness will enjoy the Lord’s smile of blessing beaming upon their lives. The ’blessing’ is extended to his loyal servants, who enjoy the promises of the covenant. It is to them that God grants his favour and the smile of his face. The Lord’s blessing is secure and reliable; it is not subject to feelings, circumstances or outside influences. Likewise, the God of salvation will vindicate them, meaning that God will count them as righteous and just, worthy of entering into His presence to worship Him. Their saviour-redeemer will provide justice and grant them the ultimate vindication that only God can offer. Consequently, they are accepted by Him.
Finally, in verse 6, we read that, “Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.” Thus, the company of God’s faithful covenant people with whom He is pleased to walk with, not because of outside influences, but by the internal desire of their hearts to please and seek Him, to live in the presence of His ‘face’ that His smile of blessing may be upon them.
I wonder how seriously do we examine and prepare ourselves before we seek to enter into the presence of God? How do we get the balance right in approaching God recognising He is both holy and loving, friend and Lord? Can we ever be considered worthy to come before the Lord? I think not! If it were not for His unconditional grace we would have no hope of being accepted by Him nor would we ever be able to enter into His holy presence.