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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Preparing for Worship: Psalm 24 – Revisited

While doing some study in again in Psalm 24 recently, the Lord underscored some truths and helped me understand even more how necessary preparation for worship really is. Let’s look again at David’s psalm:

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

5 They will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

7 Lift up your heads, 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.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory. [NIV]

Psalm 24 could have been used as a song to prepare for worship, perhaps when the ark is brought to Jerusalem. Never the less, it still serves as a reminder for us today about preparing for worship. [I am indebted in great part to Tremper Longman and David Garland, who provide good insight and commentary into the Psalms in their volume on “Psalms” found in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Revised Edition, Volume 5, by Zondervan, published in 2008.]

Biblical scholars are uncertain as to the occasion for which the psalm was written, but its celebration as God as the Great King is central to the theme. In verses 1-2, the psalmist declares that Yahweh created everything, and thus He owns it, directs its, controls it. Part of the preparation for worship is the recognition that God is the Creator and Owner of all. We really have no rights to ourselves. He is the Absolute Master of all things. He created it all and made all the rules. We are His servants to do His bidding.

Once David has established that Yahweh is the great Creator-King, he has set the stage for the question, “Who may go and worship Him?” and the answers for the question [verses 3-6]. Knowing that God is the All-Powerful Creator is essential in recognizing just who is to be worshiped. We are not just approaching another important person, but God, Himself– Ruler, Creator and King. Because of who He is, not just anyone may approach Him. Who may come before Him to worship? “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” [4] By clean hands, the psalmist in not talking about whether or not someone has washed their hands with soap and water, but one who has been forgiven, and one whose actions are right. Those of a pure heart come to God with pure motives. Those that come to God come trusting in Him alone as God, placing faith alone in Him. Part of the preparation for worship is right actions and pure motives. We cannot approach Holy God with unconfessed sin in our hearts and lives. We cannot approach God with alternative motives for our own selfish gain or pleasure. Realizing that He alone is Lord and Master of it all helps prepare us for this.

Such trust is not without reward: “They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior.” [5] God bestows His gracious loving-kindness on them and becomes their protector. The true sons of Jacob are those who approaches God without sinful actions, who comes with pure motives, and considers only Yahweh as his only God. The same is true for us today: coming to God rightly has its rewards: the unmerited favor of God, that is, His blessing as well as His protection, His vindication. God is responsible for my reputation; we can trust our safety and our reputations to Him for His honor and glory.

Once we realize that God is in ultimate control, once we are prepared to meet Him, then the call comes to open the gates to receive Him. This might have been an antiphonal song between the people and the leaders. They are not to “lift up their heads to an idol”, but to who? The King of Glory. In this context, it is a sign of rejoicing. The repetition is for the emphasis given to the preparation. The Creator-God is the King of Glory; He is the LORD Almighty. As LORD Almighty, is the Covenant keeping God who is the most powerful and most mighty, worthy of all glory, all honor and all praise.

The psalm speaks to us today to prepare for worship. We must realize that He alone is the Creator King. We must approach Him on His terms. We must open the gates and recognize Who, God is: the Creator-King who is also the King of Glory, the Great Victorious Warrior. He has already conquered sin and death. He already reigns over the universe. He is Yahweh Almighty, the Covenant Keeping Creator God who desires to have a relationship with us.

-What are you going to do today to prepare for worship?
-Will you realize that God alone is the Absolute Ruler and Owner of all things?
-Why not proclaim that out loud right now?
-Will you confess any sin and wrong motives and seek forgiveness from the Father? Preparation for worship demands that we approach God with clean hands and a pure heart, depending on Him alone as our God.
-Will we make those preparations necessary that honor Who He is and What He has done?

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