God Our True King

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1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 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. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O 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! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! (Psalm 24, ESV)

Key Observation: As Creator and Sustainer of the universe, God is the only true King.

Psalm 24 is a powerful declaration of the Lord’s kingship. It flows through three movements: verses 1–2 declare God’s credentials as Creator, verses 3–6 describe the character of his followers, and verses 7–10 welcome God’s arrival by announcing his victory. This psalm was probably originally used in temple services that celebrated the Lord as King of creation. We can read it profitably as a prayer of praise to our Lord and a call to holiness as we seek to reflect his character to the world.

Verses 1–2 identify the Lord as the Creator and ruler of the earth. This is an important declaration in the ancient world. It is the means by which a god demonstrates his superiority over all others. Since the Lord can secure the earth and make it a safe place for life, then this proves that the Lord is truly Lord of all. The opening verses invite us to recognize God as King and to dethrone any “little” kings in our lives that may diminish our capacity to serve and trust the true King.

Verses 3–6 turn to the worshipers who have gathered to celebrate the Lord as King. Verse 3 asks a question of credentials: Who is able to gather in the temple to await the coming victorious Creator and King? Verses 4–6 answer this question by focusing on character rather than social status or accomplishment. Verse 4 focuses our attention on our inner motives. The language is “clean [innocent] hands and a pure heart.” Heart is the intellectual and decision-making center of a person. In other words, God’s people are to be whole persons whose inner motivations are in line with the mission and will of God. This proper alignment of our intentions with God’s will then flows into our actions that we take with our hands, feet, and mouths. The key to living from a purity of heart is trust. In our world, there are gods screaming out for our devotion and trust: wealth, security, sex, family, and status are a few examples. Those who turn from these little gods to trust fully in Jesus and walk faithfully in following his way will find their way to the gathering of them that await the victorious Lord.

Verses 7–10 narrate the arrival of the victorious King of the world. In each of these verses, God bears the title “the King of glory.” This is a statement of God’s awesomeness or incomparability. There is no one like the Lord. The King of glory is the Lord Almighty. As Christians, we read this psalm as a celebration of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:10–11, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.” The Lord Jesus has secured our future and our world. We give him our worship and adoration as we await his return to usher in the New Creation.

1. How does this psalm describe our foundation for true security?
2. What is the link between character and worship in Psalm 24?
3. What is the basis for worshiping the Lord according to this psalm?

Are you interested in learning more about the Psalms? Consider taking a deep dive into the book with a dynamic teacher, Brian Russell. The book of Psalms is often quoted and clichéd, but much less often contextualized. When we understand the Psalter relative to the circumstances in which it was written, we find a rich resource for God’s people. Through these prayers, God both speaks to us and models how we might speak back to Him. At its core, the book of Psalms is an instructional guide to a moment-by-moment walk with God through the world. Get the book and accompanying videos in our store here.

In these pages you’ll:

  • Discover how the psalms of the Bible can translate to your daily life
  • Allow the psalms to help you find words to express yourself to God when you are unsure of how to pray
  • Learn the historical context in which the psalms were written, adding to their richness

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Dr. Brian Russell is Dean of the School of Urban Ministries and Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is also a consultant and speaker on the missional interpretation of Scripture and creating a missional ethos in communities of faith.

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