We know that Psalm 24 was written by David (it’s in the subheading), but we are told nothing about the context that lay behind the composition of this song. However, if we look within the psalm, there is a call to open the gates (presumably of Jerusalem) so that the King of glory can enter (24:7, 9). This is likely to be a reference to the entry of the Ark of the Covenant (representing God’s presence) into Jerusalem. David wrote Psalm 24 for this special occasion. The incidents preceding this event are outlined in 1 Chronicles 13 and 15.
David had captured Jerusalem and established his capital there, but the Ark was still stationed at Abinadab’s house. So David summoned Israel to bring the Ark up to Jerusalem so that God’s special presence could dwell in the centre of his kingdom. It was a delicate operation because the Ark was holy and had to be treated very carefully. But the day was full of excitement and celebration. This was the culmination of David’s reign – God’s presence coming into the capital. As the Ark was being transported, the cart lurched and the guy in charge put his hand on the Ark to stop it falling off the cart. God struck him dead on the spot. As you can imagine, this put an end to the festivity. The Bible says that David was both angry with and afraid of God, and he cried, “How can I ever bring the Ark of God to me?” (1 Chron. 13:12). So he left the Ark close by and returned to Jerusalem.
Because of what happened, David was too afraid to bring the Ark into Jerusalem. He did not feel worthy or able to live close to God. God was too frightening, too dangerous, too holy. It was another three months before he was ready to try again. David did a lot of soul searching during this time and realised how he could seek God’s face and live close to a holy, all-powerful God. He put his revelation in this song.
SCRIPTURE: PSALM 24:1-10
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Saviour.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – he is the King of glory
As David writes, God is incredible. He created the whole of this world and everything belongs to him. God is powerful. He never loses a battle. Everything is under his control. He is all-powerful. So we have to be careful about seeking his face, of coming close to him, as David found out. You cannot push God around. You cannot toy with him. You cannot treat him lightly. Seeking God’s face without due respect is a recipe for disaster.
But we can come near to God. It is possible to get close to him and know his blessing as David discovered. It is possible to “stand in his holy place.” You just need “clean hands and a pure heart.” Right actions and right motivations. This is possible for us through Jesus. We come humbly through Jesus to stand in God’s presence, to seek his face, to savour his love, to hear his commands, to be filled with his power.
And when a generation seeks God in this way (24:6) then the door to revival opens. God’s blessing is poured out on his people. David saw this in his generation and so will we.
Lord I honour you. The whole of creation cries out in praise to you and I gladly join them. I recognise my smallness and brokenness and yet through Jesus I come freely into your presence and seek your face, Lord of the universe. I know it will be costly and humbling, but I want to live close to you. To hear your voice and to follow your will and to enjoy your presence. To seek your face. This is my heart’s desire.
PRAYER FOR REVIVAL
Please raise up this generation to seek your face with pure hands and clean hearts. Please make it a generation that will be yielded to you. A generation that will be blessed by you. A generation that will see your power.