The notes for today and the rest of the week have been produced by Bethan. We’re looking at Psalm 24 today.
I remember as a child growing up in Ebenezer Church, my friends and I would often try and catch each other out based on the opening verse of this Psalm. It would go something like this:
Child A: Whose coat is that on the floor?
Child B: It’s mine.
Child A: A-ha! No it’s not. It’s the Lord’s!
The joys of childhood know no end! Despite the silliness – I’m not sure the Lord is overly concerned about our coats etc. – this Psalm is extremely challenging.
‘The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’. I don’t know if I’m the only one humming the old tune in my head as I read those words but they’re heavy words. What they mean for us today is difficult. Its implications are challenging. It means that we cannot hold onto anything; we cannot keep anything away from the Lord; we cannot take pride in our possessions or hold onto our earthly relationships. They are the Lord’s. All is the Lord’s because ‘he founded [the earth] on the seas and established it on the waters.’
There are areas of my life that I freely give to the Lord and there are areas that – sometimes unintentionally – I hold close to my chest and away from the Lord; I try to distance Him from them. David’s words here challenge this instinct. As many of you know, I have a two-year-old son and one of his favourite words is ‘mine’. As soon as he gets his hands on something, it’s considered to be his, whether it be a toy car, a banana or a swing in the park. One of the challenges I face is teaching him that, just because he is using it or playing with it at that particular moment, does not mean that it is his in fifteen minutes when he has discarded it and another child has picked it up. It’s a difficult lesson and, if we’re really honest, it’s probably not a lesson we’ve completely learned ourselves. Maybe not with swings and bananas though. If we feel we have worked hard for something or deserve something, we want to hold onto it.
In order to really worship and glorify the Lord for who he is and his mighty power, we have to put him in his rightful place: as king over everything. We can’t sing the words or like the sentiment but not do it in our own lives. We can’t praise God, calling him the King of Kings, if we are holding onto things in our own lives and resisting his reign.
After considering the Lord’s status over all, David begins to consider who can approach this powerful and pure God and ‘ascend the mountain of the Lord’ and he answers his own question by saying, ‘The one who has clean hands and a pure heart’. There’s two parts to the answer here. It’s not simply about having ‘clean hands’, as in, clean from sin and worldly things, but it’s also about having a ‘pure heart’. God is the only real measurer of a pure heart but it’s clear here that God isn’t just interested in us only having ‘clean hands’ before our peers (although this is important) but we must too have a ‘pure heart’ before him. This brings to mind 1 Samuel 16 when Samuel has been told that the Lord will anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king over Israel. Samuel looks at the sons and assumes that the Lord has chosen Eliab – Jesse does not even ask David to be there and so he too has made assumptions – but the Lord ‘looks at the heart’ v7 and chooses David. He may not be the obvious human choice but the Lord’s not overly concerned about that.
What is the reward for these ‘clean hands and pure heart’? The reward is beyond comprehension: being blessed by the Lord, saved and vindicated. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Lord, help us to throw the doors and gates open and welcome you into our lives, not in name only but into our hearts. Rule over all aspects of our lives Lord and make our hearts pure.
‘Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
in my place condemned he stood,
sealed my pardon with his blood:
Hallelujah, what a Saviour!’