************ Sermon on Psalm 24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 25, 2014
"Lift Up Your Heads"
Ascension Day 2014
How will you greet each other this coming Thursday? On Christmas Day people greet each other with "Merry Christmas." On Easter morning my wife says "He has risen"; and I respond with "He has risen indeed!" But how do we greet each other on Ascension Day? Some of you might say, "Ascension Day? What's that?" Others of you might think, "What's the big deal?"
Ascension Day is an important day in the life of the church. It was on this day, forty days after Easter, that Jesus physically ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of God in glory and power. This was His reward after suffering and dying and completing the work of redemption.
Psalm 24 points us to this joyful event in the life of Christ and His church.
I Ascension's Lord
A For a month now we have been singing songs about the reign and rule of the Lord Jesus Christ:
-"All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name"
-"Jesus Shall Reign"
-"Alleluia! Sing to Jesus"
-"Crown Him with Many Crowns"
-"He Is Exalted"
For a month, now, we have been celebrating Ascension Day. For a month, now, we have been celebrating the reign and rule of King Jesus.
B As an Ascension Day psalm, it should not surprise us that Psalm 24 begins with a statement about the rule and sovereignty of God and Christ:
(Ps 24:1-2) The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (2) for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.Founded it upon the seas? Established it upon the waters? What is the psalmist talking about? When we go back to Genesis 1 we see that water existed before the dry ground. From out of the water God called forth the sky (Gen 1:6-8). And, from out of the water God called forth land and sea (Gen 1:9-10). What once had been formless and empty and dark (Gen 1:2), was now sky and land and sea and light. God called it, He voiced it, into existence. "He founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters."
According to the Psalmist, all this creation activity makes God the owner. God is the owner because He is the Maker, the Creator, the Founder, the One Who formed heaven and earth and everything in them.
(Ps 24:1-2) The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (2) for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.
C Something changed on Ascension Day. On Ascension Day the risen Christ was seated on the throne and also acknowledged as owner. On Ascension Day, the risen Christ in the flesh became co-owner. So now He also claims ownership of all things. About every square inch of the universe Christ says, "It is mine." In fact, there is not a single thing in the entire universe about which Christ does not say "It is mine."
It all belongs to Jesus. This is true for anything and everything. As I said to the boys and girls, it all belongs to the LORD – whether it is my car, my check book, my computer, my marriage, my children and grandchildren. It should be His name on every certificate, deed, title, and bank account. It all belongs to Him and it is His to use as He pleases and to do with as He desires.
D If the earth is the LORD'S and everything in it, then it is not ours. If God is the owner of everything then you and I are not the owner. A couple of weeks ago I was told about some toddlers in the nursery. They both wanted the same toy. As far as both were concerned, "It is mine." As you know, that doesn't work. If the earth and its fullness belongs to God then the earth and its fullness does not belong to you and me. That's what it comes down to. That is true for what your neighbor has and that is true for what you have – whether it be a little or a lot: it all belongs to the Lord Jesus and not to you and not to your neighbor. He says, "It is mine."
Did you notice the inscription above Psalm 24? It identifies our Scripture reading as a psalm of David. We are talking about David, the king. In the Ancient World, kings had absolute power and authority. Everything and everyone in their kingdom belonged to them. But David knew better. David knew that though he was king, over him was a higher King and to this King belonged everything.
So, as we celebrate Ascension Day we remember that everything is Christ's: the gold, the silver, the cattle on a thousand hills, the riches of the entire universe. They are His and not ours.
II Ascension's Question
A This brings us to the abrupt question of verse 3: "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?" Doesn't this question seem like an intrusion on the theme of God's and Christ's rule and sovereignty? So what is this question doing here?
This question has everything to do with our opening verses. It asks who may stand and live and work in the presence of God: the Almighty, the Sovereign, the Absolute, the God of verses 1 & 2.
B Let's first look at this question from David's perspective. "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?" As David thought about this question he could only think, "Not me. I may not ascend the hill of the LORD. I may not stand in his holy place." Remember what happened the first time David tried to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem? God struck Uzzah dead for touching the ark of God (cf 2 Sam 6). David could only conclude he was not worthy to ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place. This message was reinforced when David wanted to build a house, the Temple, for the Lord. But the Lord turned David down because of all the blood shed by David throughout the years (cf 1 Chr 22:8). Again, the message to David was, "You may not ascend the hill of the LORD. You may not stand in his holy place."
C Let's also look at this question from the perspective of Adam. "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?" When the creating and sovereign God of verses 1 & 2 was done with His creating activity, Adam and Eve were living in a perfect place. They lived and walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. Then came the Fall into sin. Adam and Eve were expelled from the presence of God in the Garden. "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?" The answer: NOT Adam. NOT Eve. And, NOT you and I as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Because, like them, we are fallen. Like them, we are unworthy. Like them, we are sinful.
III Ascension's Answer
A "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?" The answer is given in verses 4 & 5:
(Ps 24:4) He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
That term "clean hands" is such a loaded statement. We have learned that at any given time our hands can have millions of disease-causing bacteria on them. Right now there are more bacteria on your body than there are people in the world. Your hands are the hardest things to keep clean, because you use your hands to touch, to open doors, to shake hands. Hands, when it comes right down to it, are disease spreaders. Yet they are so important. Try to imagine life without hands.
Spiritually, our hands are no different. They are still disease spreaders. We use them to touch what we should not touch. We use them to strike a brother or a child or a spouse. We use them to connect to a perverted website. We use them to sin.
What is necessary to ascend the hill of the Lord? What is necessary to stand in His holy place? Clean hands. And, a pure heart. We need both. It isn't enough, like the Pharisees, to wash our hands and refrain from unclean foods. It is Jesus Himself Who told us it isn't what goes into a man that makes him unclean but what comes out of a man.
What is necessary to ascend the hill of the Lord? What is necessary to stand in His holy place? The answer: RIGHTEOUSNESS. Absolute, perfect, undefiled, pure righteousness. Our God is a holy God. No sinner can stand in His holy place. No sinner can ascend His holy hill. Righteousness is necessary.
But we are not righteous. With David and Adam and Eve we do not have the right to stand in His holy Place.
B "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?" On Ascension Day we are given the answer. It is the Lord Jesus Who ascends the hill of the Lord. It is the Lord Jesus Who stands in His holy place? Why? Because He alone, of all men, has clean hands and a pure heart. Because He alone has and is righteousness.
So, on this Ascension Day we celebrate and rejoice in the One Who did ascend the hill of the Lord and enter the Holy Place. But this was not the hill and holy place on earth which is but a copy, a pale imitation, a shadow of what is in heaven. He entered the real deal. He entered with clean hands and a pure heart.
C The message of the Gospel is that in Christ we, too, can ascend the hill of the Lord and enter the holy place. When we believe in Jesus, His obedience becomes our obedience, His righteousness becomes our righteousness, His clean hands become our clean hands, His pure heart becomes our pure heart. Do you hear what I am saying? I am saying that today we celebrate not only Christ's ascension but also our ascension in Christ and because of Christ. Under the inspiration of the Spirit, David spoke of this in verses 5 & 6:
(Ps 24:5-6) He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Savior. (6) Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. SelahWhen we, in Christ, seek the face of God ours is the blessing of going into the very presence of God.
IV Ascension's Command
A Our psalm ends with Ascension's command. Listen to the command:
(Ps 24:7-8) Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. (8) Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.This command is so important, it is repeated twice.
Remember, because of sin man was expelled from the Garden of Eden and an angel of God with a flaming sword was put at the entrance to guard the way to the tree of life so that none may enter in. David, too, has unclean hands and an impure heart and, in a very real way, the gates were shut to him. But on Ascension Day the gates of heaven swing open. They swing wide open. In fact, they are thrown open. The everlasting doors had to be thrown open, they could not do otherwise, because the King of glory was coming up to the gates.
B Now, remember, this is a psalm of David. Do you remember the first time David entered Jerusalem? Jerusalem was in the hands of the Jebusites. The Jebusites were so confident in their defenses that they taunted David, saying the blind and lame could defend the city (2 Sam 5:6). This angered David. The Bible indicates he did a sneak attack on the Jebusite city by using a water shaft (cf 2 Sam 5:8).
In Psalm 24 the King of glory doesn't have to sneak into the city. Rather, the gates are thrown open to Him. Think of Palm Sunday on steroids. Think of Palm Sunday times ten. On Palm Sunday the people welcomed King Jesus. But on Ascension Day the angel hosts add their voices to that of all of creation. When He was but a baby, lying in a manger, the night sky was filled with exultant angels who sang and rejoiced at His birth. Now imagine the gates of heaven when the battle has been won, when Satan has been defeated, when the One greater than David rode up to the gates.
C The psalmist speaks of the King of Glory. Ascension Day reveals that Jesus is this King of Glory. He is the Lord strong and mighty. He is the Lord mighty in battle. All His enemies and mine He will condemn to everlasting punishment: but me and all his chosen ones He will take along with him into the joy and the glory of heaven.
He is the conquering King. He is the triumphant King. He is the victorious King. So,
(Ps 24:7-8) Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. (8) Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
On Ascension Day we celebrate that Christ entered into the glory of heaven. But we also celebrate our ascension, for He has seated us with Him in the heavenly realms.
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