I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: Nehemiah 1–5, Psalm 24, Proverbs 24.
Some texts are a bit more mysterious than they might at first appear. One such is Psalm 24, at least for me. The poem has three basic sections:
- a declaration of Yahweh’s possession of and sovereignty over the world he made (vv. 1–2)
- a reflection on the character of one who may approach Yahweh (vv. 3–6)
- a call to and an act of exultation in the glory of Yahweh (vv. 7–10)
At first glance, there is no obvious connection between these three elements. The third might seem to follow from the first to some extent, but the emphases are all different. The first section addresses Yahweh’s rule over creation; the last enjoins gates and doors1 to worship him on the basis that he —Yahweh of hosts—is the king of glory. The middle section, on the character of those who can approach him, seems completely disconnected from either.
Yet David, the author of the Psalm, was not an idiot. When we find passages like this in Scripture and cannot at first see how to put them together, it behooves us to take a step back and consider them at further length.2 David intended his poem to be understood, and not by God only. The pieces do relate; the question is simply how they fit. As is the way of all good poetry, there are holes here, and they require of the audience a bit more engagement than would a direct statement of David’s intent.
Sure enough, these pieces do relate. Each points us to a different aspect of Yahweh’s nature. Indeed, the outline I wrote out above is actually a good summary of David’s intent here. In verses 1–2, we see that Yahweh owns the world he made. He is both creator and ruler. He is sovereign over creation, including the men and women who live in this world. Then, in verses 3–6, we see his moral character. The requirements for anyone to approach Yahweh’s holy place tell us just as much about Yahweh as about those who seek him: he is holy, he has clean hands (meaning he has not done nothing wrong), he is pure in heart, he rejects all idolatry, and he is utterly trustowrthy. Moreover, he blesses those who are like him; he makes them righteous and saves them. Finally in verses 7– 10, we see that he is glorious, strong and mighty, a king. He is not just any king, but the King of glory. He owns glory; it is his and no other’s. He is stronger than any who would oppose him. He will triumph over his enemies. He will come into the city and take up his reign.
In short, the Psalm moves us from creation to consummation. Yahweh made and rules over the world. He calls his people to be holy, as he is holy, and he makes them righteous and saves them. He will come into his glory as the King. And David gets us there without ever coming out and saying those bare facts; the poem moves our hearts the more thoroughly because he makes us work for us, and because he does so with such aching beauty.
Lift up your heads, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
Yahweh of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah. (Psalm 24:9–10)
Over-familiarity with the text has also perhaps dulled us to the curiosity of this exhortation. Perhaps there was something going on culturally we are missing today, but this is the only place in Scripture that anyone addresses gates and doors, to my knowledge.↩
Of course, that assumes we are paying enough attention to recognize that the poem is doing something unusual in the first place—and, dare I say it, we too rarely are paying heed so closely.↩