Sovereign Shepherd, Psalm 24

The previous two meditations here at Ascribelog have looked at how Psalm 22 portrays Christ as the suffering Shepherd, and how Psalm 23 shows him as the all-sufficient Shepherd. Today we’ll explore Psalm 24 and its depiction of the sovereign Shepherd.

Psalm 24 begins by acknowledging God as creator and sovereign ruler over all aspects of the world and all the creatures that live in it.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
     the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
     and established it upon the rivers (Psalm 24:1-2).

Grand Prismatic Springs

Reading that after having recently returned from a trip to Yellowstone National Park, I can’t help envisioning the Park’s thermal features that display creation’s amazing variety and unique beauty.

The sovereign God, who made and rules over all things is awesome and holy. Who dares approach him? That’s the question Psalm 24:3-6 (ESV) asks and answers:

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
     And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
     who does not lift up his soul to what is false
     and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
     and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
     who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

We know from many other passages in Scripture that no one is without sin; everyone has dirty hands and an impure heart unless cleansed by the blood of Christ. Only those redeemed by Christ may approach the Lord. But these verses of Psalm 24 make it clear that a verbal profession of Christ must be accompanied by a transparent and godly lifestyle supporting that claim. Clean hands represent righteous actions and a pure heart indicates godly motives. Do we act out of love for Christ and others? Or are our “good deeds” actually efforts to make ourselves look admirable or advance our own agendas?

Like the Pharisees during the life of Jesus, many “religious” people focus on man-made regulations that obey the letter rather than the spirit of the Law. They are puffed up with pride in their own perceived righteousness. In these ways, they lift their souls to what is false. Speaking deceitfully, they manipulate behind the scenes to promote their own self-righteous agendas. The person who is humble and honest is the one who receives the Lord’s blessing and true righteousness. This is the one who truly approaches the Lord.

In the next verses, we glimpse David’s experience as a warrior and his desire for the temple he longed to build:

Lift up your heads, O gates!
     And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
     that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
     The Lord, strong and mighty,
     the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
     And lift them up, O ancient doors,
     that the King of glory may come in (7-9, ESV).

As David anticipates the sturdy gates of the temple, through which believers would approach the Lord, he exhorts the gates themselves as well as believers through all ages to lift their heads in praise to the King of glory. Having seen God’s power manifest in many battles, David extols the mighty Lord. The ancient doors remind readers of Jeremiah’s “ancient paths” (Jer.  6:16), the path of walking in obedience that has existed since creation, when the Lord drew near to Adam and Eve in the garden. When Christ died the temple’s veil split, vividly depicting that Christians now have direct access to the King of glory.

David concludes his psalm about the Great Shepherd’s sovereignty with a rousing rhetorical question (10, ESV):

Who is this King of glory?
     The Lord of hosts,
     he is the King of glory! Selah

The almighty and powerful God created all things and sovereignly rules over them. Only the humble and honest Christian, whose hands and heart have been cleansed by Christ, may approach his holy hill. The King of glory is not limited to a tabernacle or David’s anticipated temple; he has drawn near believers since creation and he will be even nearer to them until his return. Lift up your head and praise the Lord of hosts, the King of glory!

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