Psalm 24 is an anthem proclaiming God's greatness, and originally would have been sung in a rockin? environment. If we are satisfied with this world, then God will let it be the best we ever have. But He wants to give us much more. We cannot have clean hands and clean hearts on our own, but we have a King who can cleanse not only our hands but our hearts, as well. Whom do you serve and who is your King of Glory?
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Lord, it's our desire that this would be increasingly true wherever we come from. We know we have friends here who do not yet know that there are any songs in your Bible that bring life. Your book is seen to them as a book of heavy-handed laws and restrictions that steal from us life. Many in this room, and many in our city and world, believe that if anything, your existence means a restriction from life.
I pray you would use this morning to shatter that, and that you would lead them to place where they would understand where true life is, that you are the way, that you are the truth, and that life is found in relationship with you. Lord, for those of us who know you, would you increase that conviction in our hearts? For those of us who are in process and still wondering about the God of Jacob, would you reveal that truth in a way that leads us down that path of life? For your glory, Lord, and as is consistent with your glory, our good… In Christ's name, amen.
We are looking at different songs, and like any great songwriter, the writer of the songs of Scripture is not limited to just certain types of songs. Lennon and McCartney could not just write "Yesterday." They could also write "Help." They could also write "Can't Buy Me Love," and other songs that have a little bit of a rhythm and rock to them, and not just ballads.
God, in his Word, has songs of mourning and songs that relate to the lowest moments of our life, songs of hope and songs of peace and songs of comfort. He has anthems because he's a great songwriter. The song we look at this week is an anthem. It's an anthem that basically proclaims his greatness, one that would be song, if you will, in a rocking environment. It's Psalm 24, and I would love for you to turn there.
Whenever you hear certain songs, some songs stand the test of time and can be draped over generation and don't necessarily have to be understood in the light of the context of the culture in which they were written. There are other songs, i.e. Toby Keith's "Angry American," that don't make much sense unless you understand that he wrote that in the shadow of 9/11. Darryl Worley's "Have You Forgotten?" (about Bin Laden). What a great rhyme that is. That song doesn't make much sense without the backdrop of 9/11. You need to understand the cultural context in which it was written in order for it to come most alive.
That is often true with the Psalms. They are written in light of certain history. The genius of the Psalms is that though they have a specific application to the history in which they are written to, because the author of them is not limited by time and space, as we are, and doesn't see in a vertical drop with time, and he's not working day by day, but God sees in the scope and the context of history that's unfolding in concert with his purposes and plans, God often will take truths that are relevant to one situation and have them, in a sense, foreshadow or prefigure a greater fulfillment of those truths in a history which is to come.
As a reminder, that's exactly what Peter said in 1 Peter, chapter 1. Last week, we looked at this, that the men who wrote the Bible often did not understand that which they were writing. They longed to understand how God was going to fulfill what they anticipated. Look with me at Luke 24.
In Luke 24, there were a couple of men who had known Christ and followed Christ and were on the road Emmaus. They were filled with sadness because they did not understand how this God they hoped in in the person of Jesus Christ would let them down now with his absence through his death, burial, and what they did not yet know for sure was his resurrection.
When you pick it up with me right there in verse 44, you'll see that Christ came alongside of them and began to walk with them and ask them what their hearts were heavy about. They told him about Jesus and his being crucified. Christ responded after having some time with them. He responded in verse 44 by saying, "Look guys, you don't need to be long-faced anymore. Your problem is you don't understand all that has already been revealed to you. You're seeing it in too narrow of a context."
He walked them from Genesis, if you will, up through the end of the Hebrew Bible to show them that all of that pointed to him. This is what it says. "Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'"
What Christ says is, "Look, there is much truth hidden in the Old Testament. All of that truth, though it has a pre-figurement (or a pre-fulfillment or a type) of me, it is most fully fulfilled in who I am. Yes, David was a king of sorts who delivered a nation from a certain amount of bondage, but he just prefigured me.
Yes, Moses was a prophet who declared to you the hope and freedom that was to be known in a relationship with God, but he just prefigured the greater Prophet, which was me, who would lead you out of bondage, not just the slavery that was Egypt, but the slavery that is sin, self-destruction, and the hopelessness that is there.
Joseph, in that he was rejected by his brethren, endured incredible hardship, in order that he might go ahead of his brothers to their place of need. Even though they did not recognize him, in his love, he remembered them and offered them forgiveness they did not deserve. Prefigured me…"
He walked them through Moses and the Prophets, and he walked them through the Psalms and showed them the Psalms anticipated everything he did. He is the Good Shepherd who gives his life for the sheep, who you can walk through any situation in life, and though your circumstance isn't sweet, you cannot fear and need not fear because he will deliver you, even at death.
Psalm 24 must be understood in light of its current history and also what it anticipates. Most scholars believe that the history of Psalm 24… If you have a Bible, you might want to write at the top of Psalm 24, 2 Samuel 6. I'll tell you what was going on in 2 Samuel 6. A young boy by the name of David had become king very recently. He was anointed as a young teenager, God protected him through a series of events, and now, at the age of 30, David was about to be king over not just the two tribes in the south but all of Israel.
David was going to go and take Jerusalem, which had become a stronghold of enemies of Israel, a bunch of guys called the Jebusites. Their constant enemies throughout that period of time were the Philistines who lived over near the Mediterranean Sea. David was going to use his favor with God and God's wanting to work in and through him to take Israel to a place of promise and rest as a type of the one who would come, who would give them ultimate promise and rest. David was going to conquer these enemies that were a constant thorn in the flesh to these Jews.
In 2 Samuel 6, David defeated the Philistines, and he recaptured this little thing called the ark of the covenant. What's the ark of the covenant? Those of you who don't know your Bible may know Hollywood. You've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, and you're familiar with the concept of looking for not the Holy Grail, which was the chalice Christ used during the Last Supper, legend has it. Stephen Spielberg didn't need to take care of that because Monty Python took care of that. We're not looking for the Holy Grail; we're looking for the lost ark.
The lost ark is basically a chest that certain artifacts from the deliverance from Egypt were contained in. Most significantly, the Ten Commandments, the two tablets inscribed in the front and back, that Moses brought down with him the second time from Sinai, were in there as a reminder of the holiness of God and his desire to reveal himself to the nation of Israel. There were other things around this ark, but this ark, the Bible tells us in Exodus, was a symbol of God's willingness to be present amongst the people.
They were very careful with this ark. It was a reminder of God's holiness. They were not to be careless in the way they transported or the way they approached it. In fact, that ark was kept in later days, when it went from the Tent of Meeting to a tabernacle to the eventual temple, behind a curtain, that teams of horses could be struck on both sides and run and not tear that curtain.
Behind that holy place, there was the Holy of Holies that no man could go to except once a year, God, in his grace, allowed one man as a mediator, the high priest, to go and represent the people before his holiness and offer sacrifices of blood as a means through which God, in his forbearance, would overlook the sins for a time until the ultimate sacrifice would come.
This ark represented the very presence of God in the midst of the people. It had been lost in a battle some 100 years earlier. In 1 Samuel 4, we find that the Philistines, one time when they came and kicked the Jews' rear end, kicked Israel's tail, took that ark and dragged it back with them to their homeland. It was interesting because they put that in their little temple where they worship the god Dagon, and the next day, when they woke up, their big carved stone god that they created with their own hands was fallen over, face down, in front of the ark of the covenant.
God said, "Listen, you may have just disciplined my people Israel, but there's a reason you disciplined them because I used you to communicate to them that just because they have a relationship with me does not mean they can act however they want to act. They are to be a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a kingdom of priests, and they are to continue to walk with me by faith.
As they continually honor me with some rote religion that is not consistent with a heart of love, I'm going to show them that religious relic and religious rites will not give them favor and protection from me. They may have this little symbol of my presence, but if they don't seek me, there will be no relationship and no protection. You need to know this, O king of Philistine, that I am still God. Now, in my grace, as I've used you and given you victory, you can deal with me."
The king didn't quite get that, so he stood up his little god again, and the next day went back, and God had had it fall yet one more time, and this time it shattered into pieces. The king of Philistine, instead of surrendering to the God of creation, said, "Let's just get that thing out of here." He shipped it off, and some humble Israelite had kept it in his family for some 100 years.
When David became king, one of the first things he did was ask God if he would deliver them, in fact, from the enemies that were the Philistines, and he did. Then he asked God if he would give them Jerusalem and deliver them from the Jebusites who drove them out of that place of promise, and God did.
David said, "Let's go get the ark which represents God's presence among us because we have his favor again because we have humbled ourselves before him and not just assumed that because he is our God, as some national, mythological figure, that we can do whatever we want as long as we burn a few forms of incense in his direction. Let's live in relationship with him again, and let's go get that which symbolizes that relationship."
So David and his cronies go to get the ark, and after a series of events where God taught them still about his holiness, the ark is approaching the city, for the first time, that God gave David and the Israelites. Many believe that this was the original penning of this psalm, and that it was often used since then of pilgrims who would approach the holy city. Its first and primary use was a reminder that God is the one who gave them victory, and now God is approaching the city, and the city should welcome him with gladness. Watch this.
Psalm 24 says, "The earth is the LORD's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it." David is saying right here, "Look, there is nobody who can keep us from doing what God wants us to do if we walk and live and relationship with him. If you have your Bible, I want you to flip with me to Isaiah 40. David is aware of the fact that God is the one who alone is sovereign over all the earth. Everything in it. All who dwell in it are subject to him.
This is what it says in Isaiah 40. "Do you not know?" Isaiah is talking to Israel here, years later. "Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He [meaning the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob] who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble. 'To whom then will you liken Me that I would be his equal?'"
"You lift up your eyes and you see me, who created these stars. I'm the one who leads forth their host by number. I call them all by name. Because of the greatness of my might," God says, "and the strength of my power, not one of them is missing. You worship me and fear me." David is saying, "The reason we are about to approach this city we've longed for…" This key, strategic city that was so well-fortified that the Jebusites said, when David said, "Give us the city or God will give it to us," they said, "We could be blind and lame and you could not take this city."
Yet God, through the leadership of David, gave Jerusalem to him. David said, "The reason we are going to this place is because God has given us favor, because the earth is the Lord's and all that it contains, the world and all those who dwell in it." There are rulers who have power on this earth, but they are assigned that power for a time by God for his purposes. If they violate that sovereign purpose for which they are put in place, they will give an account.
You can terrorize people, and you can kill people to keep in power, you can put your image on every statue, building, and billboard in the entire country, and rule with a rod of iron and have a legacy of fear, and when God is ready to run you out and either eradicate you in your bunker or have you live as a scared man in some hostile, foreign land (see also: recent history), it can happen.
I want you to know it can happen to our president as well. It can happen to you in your little kingdom as well. God puts us in places for his sovereign purposes, and as we heed not his grace in our lives, there is no end to what he will do to get our attention, to show him. What David writes here is something the Jews lost a sense of for a while.
The Jews thought that God chose them, so God loved the Jews only. It's amazing that the Jews for centuries would sing this psalm, and some still do, and don't have a concept that the God of Abraham is not their God. What do I mean by that? He is their God, but who else's God is he? He's the God of Ishmael as well. He's the God of Canaan, the God of Ham, the God of Japheth. He's the God of all on this earth.
Not all men on this earth know him as their God, but God is sovereign over them. God's original purpose, and if you've ever read your Bible you've at least, at some point, struggled with this question: Why did God choose the Jews and give them favor? What is it about the Jews, and what kind of racist God is he that he would choose them over all the other nations of the earth?
Here's the answer to that question, very quickly. God did not choose the Jews because they were greater in their holiness or their efforts than any other group of people. In fact, Abraham lived where Saddam Hussein used to live and was an idol worshiper and a pagan worshiper, much like anybody else in that day and age. God, in his grace, chose to reveal himself to him and draw him into a relationship with him.
So as Abraham was blessed militarily, as Abraham was blessed physically, as Abraham had great descendants, and as Abraham had great agrarian success, that Abraham and his descendants would not say, "It's because we're genius," but, "It's because God has chosen to reveal his greatness through us, and as our light shines brighter and brighter and brighter, we want to let you know the source of that wattage. He is not to be our God, but we are a kingdom of priests who will reveal to you what God has revealed to us."
Too many times in their history, the nation of Israel has forgotten that the earth is the Lord's and all that it contains, that the world is God's concern. From the initial conception of his relationship with Abraham, his desire was that the entire world would be blessed through Abraham. We know in the context of history that Jerusalem, the Jews, and Israel have not walked faithfully with this God who has revealed himself. God loves them enough to discipline them, to bring them to a place where they would seek him genuinely.
We know that they have rejected the one who is the fulfillment of their law, their prophets, and their psalms, so much so that God has created a new nation that would walk with him and that God would give them favor. Not militarily, not health, wealth, and prosperity as Creflo Dollar would have you believe, and a score of other idiots you can catch anytime you want on TBN… God, now, does not have us as a physical people taking captive political prisoners, but he has us as spiritual leaders who are taking captive the hearts of men, such that God would put us in a place that is defined by life no matter what our circumstance.
God has chosen to reveal his greatness now through the church, not in their physical prosperity necessarily, but in the fact that whether we are in want or in plenty, whether we are well-fed or hungry, whether we are cold or well-adorned, we have something that is greater than our happiness, something greater than our happenings and our circumstance.
It is joy, a peace that passes all understanding, and a hope, even in the face of the grave, that the world would cock its head at us, look at us, and say, "We don't understand why you sing, though the fig tree does not blossom. We don't understand why you sing, though the body continues to die. We don't understand why you sing, even at a funeral."
We should tell them, "Because our God is a God who has given us great hope, such that even the grave cannot contain our sadness. Is there a sense of physical loss? Absolutely. Do we wish it was a better time? Yes, but this land is not our home, so we anticipate that our Deliverer will take us to the place he has been delivered to."
That is to make Jerusalem and Israel sit up and take notice and say, "We have never had that peace, though we've had great prosperity. What is the source of your hope?" We should say, "It is the fulfillment of your law, your prophets, your psalms. It is your Messiah, whom you have rejected, and whom you do not recognize, who has given us this great hope."
We are now to them, as a church, and in the church, there is no distinction. It's made up of the entire world, as the Jews themselves would sing. There is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and Scythian, slave and free, male and female. All have access now into the very presence of God because of the provision that God promised Israel.
Let me just tell you, anybody who believes that God is a bigot and in their foolishness would tell you that any race of people, be they Jew or black, or be they of any gender, does not have equal standing before God in terms of his acceptance of them, his love for them, his concern for them, and his desire to walk with them and for them to have access into the very presence of God, does not know their Bible.
It's interesting. When Jesus came to speak to the Jews and they rejected him and said, "We want you to show us some signs," he said, "Here's your problem. The problem is not that I'm not going to show you signs. Your problem has been all along your lack of faith no matter what sign God shows you." That is why Jesus said to them, "During the time of Elijah the prophet, there were many widows who were hungry and dying in Israel because of the three-and-a-half-year drought, but Elijah was not sent to them but to a widow in Sidon because she had faith that God would care for her.
There were many lepers during the time of Elisha the prophet in Israel, during the time he was doing his ministry and declaring the goodness of God, and yet none of those lepers were healed, but…who? Somebody else who God loved: Naaman the Syrian. There are many in your Israel who need to know the Messiah is Jesus Christ, but you have rejected him." That is why Paul has gone to the Gentiles. "The earth is the LORD's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers."
What's so genius about this is when you look at Colossians 1, first of all, it says in verse 15, "He is the image of the invisible God [speaking of Christ] , the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through [Christ] and for [Christ] . He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
This is what it says in Psalm 24, "The earth is the LORD's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it." He is God, but he is Christ, who has founded it upon the seas, and he is the one who has established it upon the rivers, and he is the one who holds it together." Let me show you why this is significant.
Jesus shows you that he is the one who the psalmist sang about. He wants you to note what he built this world on, less you mistakenly take hope in it. One man wrote this: "Note what insecure foundations all terrestrial things are founded upon." When Christ came and spoke, do you remember what he said? "He who hears my word and acts on what I declare to him is the man who has built his house on the rock. But he who hears my word and does not do what I ask him to do is like one who builds his house on sand."
The psalmist goes even further and says, "If you don't know the Lord of all creation, you are building your hope on the sea." Now I don't know a ton about construction, but I know this: your foundation is fairly important. I do know that if you have a foundation of sand, it won't be long before no matter what you built has some serious problems, much less if you build it on a bed of water. It is ridiculous to the point of the extreme.
This is what one great scholar wrote years ago, a guy by the name of Spurgeon. He makes this observation: "Oh! ye worldlings, who have built your castles of confidence, your palaces of wealth, and your bowers of pleasure upon the seas, and established them upon the floods; how soon will your baseless fabrics melt, like foam upon the waters! Sand is treacherous enough, but what shall be said of the yet more unstable seas?"
What he says is, "Anybody who puts their hope in this world, even the world that God created and the world that Christ holds together, is a fool." Jesus said it this way: "Don't invest in this world and find your security in this world. Find your security in me. Build your hope and your life on my Word and obedience to it. Don't make your treasure someplace where moth can destroy, where thief can steal, and where rust can ruin."
Christ goes even further and through his servant Peter shows the foolishness of trusting in this world. Turn with me, if you have your Bible, to 2 Peter 3. I want to show you something here that I think will encourage you and challenge you. Second Peter 3… As you turn there, I'll tell you what's going on. God is reminding you that there have always been scoffers that God is sovereign over creation, and there always will be scoffers.
He says that there were scoffers way back in the day of Noah, when Noah kept telling them about the flood that would come. They ignored Noah right up until God judged the earth because he, with his divine fiat, no longer had the ocean stop at their shores but allowed that to increase to the place that he flooded and destroyed the earth.
There are people who say God will not ever judge this earth. What he says here is those folks are called uniformitarianists, people who believe things have always happened in a natural way, in a uniform way; therefore, they always will. He says in 2 Peter, "Those who believe this have forgotten that God has already done it once, and he will do it again. This time, though, not by a flood, but by another means."
I want to show you how all of this comes together, with Psalms and Colossians, in Christ in 2 Peter. Watch this. Jesus says, "Look, don't put your hope in this world. You are a fool if you base your hope in this world. If your glory, if your sense of significance, security, and stability are in anything in this world…" He didn't say, "Don't have material possessions." He said, "If those material possessions are your source of hope and comfort, you are a fool."
It's like one guy said: "Anybody who is trying to rearrange their life with material things in order to bring security to them are like the individuals who tried to rearrange the deck chairs in the Titanic once it hit that iceberg, to make life more comfortable." It was a sinking ship and a failed plan.
This is what God says in 2 Peter 3. Watch this. God has not yet destroyed the world a second time; why? "Not because he is slow as some count slowness but because of his kindness toward you, wanting you to get your rest." The word Noah means rest, and he wants you to get in the ark of rest, which is Jesus Christ, so that you might escape the coming flood of judgment that this time will not be through a flood but through another means.
Watch this. Verse 10 of 2 Peter 3: "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." Let me tell you what's so interesting about verse 10 right there.
When they exploded the atom bomb in New Mexico right there during World War II, they talked about how when that thing exploded, there was a hissing or a crackling sound that was involved when they reduced an atom and split the atom. The power that was associated with that created basically a vacuum.
Those of you who have ever played golf out at Bear Creek, you've been underneath some of those planes, when they fly over, and you hear that hissing sound, sometimes even that crackles, up in the air when those big planes create a vacuum with their jet propulsions as they go by. The folks who were ear witnesses to the splitting of the atom and the unleashing of that power described it with a hissing and crackling sound.
That's the literal translation of what is going on right there in verse 10, where it says, "…with a roar…" When? When "…the elements will be destroyed…" Let me tell you what's going to happen, I believe. I am not saying that this earth will end because of nuclear war. I don't believe it will. I don't think the God who created this world is going to let somebody else destroy it.
"The earth is the LORD's, and all it contains…" It's built on a very shaky platform, and what Jesus is going to do is this God, who has created the earth, and it says in Colossians, "All things were created by him and for him and is held together by him"… I think there's going to be a day, even as he anticipated, that he is going to say, "I am done with earth in its use in declaring my glory," and God will reduce this earth down to its very elements.
That which holds together, with its little magnetic field, with its protons, electrons, and neutrons that make up life as we know it, will be reduced, and I think he'll let it go. I think, when it says the heavens and earth will pass away, and it references fire, and the elements, as it says in 2 Peter 3, will be destroyed with intense heat… What does the splitting of the atom do?
Those of you who read Hiroshima, like I did, when you were in high school, saw what that radioactivity did to many of the folks who lived in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. There was intense heat associated with it. I'm going to tell you; I'm not talking about nuclear bombs in isolated places. I'm talking about the God, who is Lord of heaven and earth, letting it go, and creating a new heaven and a new earth. Those who knew him dwelling there and those who did not know him being in a place where they wish they could be destroyed by intense heat…
Why do I say all that? I say all that because the God being revealed in Psalm 24 is desperate for you to know him. This psalm would be sung, and this part of it where they would rehearse this was sung as they were miles away from Jerusalem. It would be sung rather antiphonally. "The earth is the LORD's, and all it contains…" The next group would say, "…the world, and those who dwell in it." One group would say, "For He has founded it upon the seas…" And somebody else: "…and established it upon the rivers."
They are rejoicing that the God who they are intimate with, who they are moving now to worship, or, in the initial sense, were moving to put him in a place where they could worship in the temple, is their God. They live in relationship with him, and it gives them great hope despite the enemies who are around them and the instability that are treaties and peace with your neighbors, or the instability that is this world.
Now as they got closer to the city and were reminded of the holiness of God they carried with them in this little reminder, this relic God had given them, they would sing something else. You have the Sovereign declared in verses 1 and 2. Now you have the song of those who can know the Sovereign, if you will, the saved. Who are they? Look at verses 3 through 6.
"Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place?""The one with clean hands." What king do you know has his servants with filthy hands? Those of you who are Seinfeld fans know that one Seinfeld when he's in the restroom. He's getting ready to eat because Poppie is going to make him a very special meal. He sees Poppie go over to the urinal (Can you say that in church? We just did.), he uses it, and he's leaving the urinal.
He walks over, and he sees Jerry. He says, "Ah, Jerry! I'm going to make for you a very special meal for you. You will love it." And he walks out without washing his hands. It's a Romano's kind of place, so it shows Poppie in the kitchen. He's in there kneading the dough, and he goes, "Jerry, for you, a very special meal." Of course, he doesn't eat it, and neither would you.
The idea here is that no king wants somebody who has filthy hands, who does not acknowledge the one he is serving is worth his best effort to be somebody who is acceptable in handling his issues. God's not just satisfied with clean hands. He wants somebody whose heart is his, especially. Not just clean hands but clean hearts; it's a dual work. True religion is a religion of the heart, not just of the hands. That's what the Scripture says.
When Jesus spoke for the very first time, he said, "Blessed are the…" What? "…pure in hand, for they shall see God"? No. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. Blessed are those who have not lifted up their soul to another, their soul to falsehood," it says, "and who has not sword deceitfully."
God wants our yes to be yes and no be no. He wants us to be people who can be trustworthy. As people who are rightly representing him, he expects us to be folks who can be trusted. God wants us to be his emissaries, his ambassadors, so when we give our word as people who know him, he expects us to live up to it.
"For God is not a son of man that he should lie, nor a man that he should repent. Has he not said, and will he not do it? Has he not spoken, and will he not make it right?" Moses wrote in Numbers 23. God says, "If you're going to be my people, you should be conformed to my character. I don't want you finding satisfaction in other things."
Let me read from Spurgeon again. He says, "The one who is content with the husk of this world will be reckoned with the swine. If we suck our consolation from the breast of this world, we prove ourselves to be its home-born children." Then he asks, "Does the world satisfy thee? Then you have your reward completely and your portion in this life; make much of it, for you shall know no other joy."
What he's saying right there is he's taking this idea… If you're lifting up consistently your soul to another place and looking for something else for life and satisfaction, for joy and celebration, then he's saying, "Drink your fill because this is as good as it's going to get for you." People who really will be in the presence of God are people who know that there is no life apart from Christ. That's what Jesus said in John 17. He says, "This is eternal life," to know Jesus Christ.
There are a number of folks in this room, and certainly in our city, state, country, and world, who have lifted their souls and are finding life somewhere else, in material success, in earthly pleasure, whatever it is. If you find your satisfaction somewhere else… If you, to use the poetic terms of Spurgeon, are satisfied with husks, then you can be assigned a place with the swine.
This last week, I was with a guy who many of you, especially who around golf, know. I was speaking at a place with a small group of folks, and one of the individuals I spent the week with was Bernhard Langer, who has won a couple of Masters. He won in '85, and he won again in '93. Bernhard and I were talking about his journey toward Christ, this man who had reached the very pinnacle of career in faithfulness.
He told me that he came to Christ just after he won his first green jacket in 1985, which is an interesting time to come to know Christ. He said the reason he did, and actually his wife, Vikki, is the one who told me… She said, "We had just won our first Masters, our first green jacket." A young poor boy from Germany who grew up, in order to help feed his family, was a caddy, and the club pro took a kindness and a liking to him and began to encourage him to try the game and gave him some encouragements.
The club champion taught him to play the game until when he was 15 and graduated from school in that school system, began to become a teaching professional and made his way through the European tour to the very pinnacles of the game of golf, winning his first green jacket in '85. It was shortly after that that he looked at his wife, and he felt the husk of this world not satisfying him. Together, they had reached this place, and yet there was a deep sense that something was still missing.
It was shortly after that that a friend invited him to the tour Bible study, and he went and began to hear, though he had been around church his whole life and had given God fleeting obedience, that life was in Jesus Christ and not through religious acts of worship but through a heart that was in relationship with him. He acknowledged that he had been lifting up his heart to another. To him, it was greatness, fame, and athletic success. Through the grace of God, he drew him to a place where he showed him that success was never going to scratch that itch.
It's interesting. In '85, when he was interviewed in the Butler Cabin after he won his first Masters, he used the Lord's name in vain, talking about how one person in particular was coming way from behind. The guy had shot 82 in the first day and then went 66, 66, and was 4 under after 9 holes on Sunday. He cursed God's name, thinking, "I thought that this guy," and he cussed on national TV, "was going to come and pass me. I couldn't believe it."
In '93 when he won, his heart had completely changed. It was on Easter Sunday, and Jim Nantz asked, "Well, Bernhard, how does it feel to win your second green jacket?" In a very simply way, in a way that many of you still remember, he said, "It's a wonderful thing, but it's especially meaningful because this is my Lord's day, the day of his resurrection. I not only enjoy winning this golf tournament, but it makes it a special day for me that I can enjoy the resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." A very simple testimony… This man had found that life comes not in one, not in two green jackets, not in the husk of this world, but in Christ.
This is key. It says that this kind of person, who hungers and thirsts for life, that's the one who "…shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation." What it's saying right there is that true life, and true forgiveness and greatness comes, not from what you do with your clean hands or even your effort to purify your hearts, but your understanding that life is not in green jackets or material success or in founding your hope on this world, which is like building your house on the seas.
"The person who hungers and thirsts after righteousness," Jesus says, "shall be satisfied." What this psalm makes very clear is that the righteous will live by faith. Their faith is such that they will seek after God. In seeking after God, God will give them a blessing. That blessing is righteousness and salvation.
You read this psalm, and you go, "Man, I'll never get my hands clean enough or my heart pure enough. I'll never be what God wants me to be." No, you do all you can as you approach the holiness of the Lord in terms of cleaning your hands and purifying your hearts. It's what God was teaching the people. "You don't just rush into my presence; you go through these ceremonial washings."
Why? Because those ceremonial washings make you clean from sin? No, but it's a reminder that you are filthy. "Just like you get dirt on your hands, you get filth in your life and your heart, and you agree with me that I am holy, and you are not. As you approach me in brokenness, confession, and humility, I will put you where you cannot be on your own."
It's God who has always given us purity. How were they saved in the Old Testament? Answer: the same way they're saved in the New Testament. Look what he does for the generation of those who seek him. He gives them the ability to do works through which he will bless them for the works that they have done.
Let me show you how all of these ideas are compressed into one three-verse section of Scripture. In Ephesians 2:8-10, verses 8 and 9 are going to be very familiar to you. Verse 10 is a fulfillment of, basically, verse 5. Listen to what it says. "For we have been saved by grace, through faith; and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no man should boast." Now verse 10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should also walk according to them."
What he says right here is, "Look, it's not what you do; it's what he's done. It's not a result of works; it's a gift from God." Calvin is a great man who said this: "We are saved by faith through grace alone, but the faith which saves is never alone." It's always accompanied by something else, and that something else is right there in verse 10. It's the good works which God created for you to walk in so he can bless you. Do you see that? What a great God that we have.
Let me close this last thing and this last idea because now, we've talked about that this is the God of all the earth, so we win in every battle that we're in. How can we get into his presence? We do all we can to make ourselves righteous, but we know that it's his grace that allows us to enter into his presence. The reason we're not all dropping dead when we carry that which symbolizes the presence of the Lord is his grace in our lives.
Then it says, "Lift up your gates." How is this fulfilled in Christ? It's fulfilled ultimately in Christ through his resurrection and his ascension into heaven. The one who has himself gained us our salvation and given us our righteousness, heaven has already received. He has not walked into a tabernacle which pictures the heavenlies, but he has entered into the very holy of holies, where he is seated now at the right hand of God. All who have attained to righteousness by faith in him will follow him there one day.
Back to Psalm 24:7-10. We first had the Sovereign of all the earth, the saved who know the Sovereign, and the Savior who allows the saved to be righteous to know the Sovereign of all the earth. "Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory?" Who is this one who makes heaven accessible to us? What's his nature, character, person? What are his attributes? What work has he accomplished?
He is "The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle." He has defeated sin, death, and hell itself, where he has taken those who were captive and led them to a great place of blessing, to use their freedom to serve him. "Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!" He repeats verse 10, then. "Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory." You rest in him. This is most completely fulfilled in Christ. Who is this King who can get us where no one else can get us?
Revelation 4 and 5 take this entire idea of this psalm and compress it. When God is unfolding all of history and trying to move the righteous from this place of suffering on this earth, those who have not put their hope in the seas or on sand but built it on the Rock… "Who can continue God's program, reveal God's history, and move us to this place of blessing? Who can open this book? Nobody can do it." Everybody laments, and finally, an angel speaks.
"I'll tell you who can. It's the Lamb of God, the lion from the tribe of Judah. He is the King of glory who alone is worthy to be praised, who has accomplished what no man could accomplish so that God can do, without in any way sacrificing his justice, what God can do in his love." Who is this King of glory? It is Jesus Christ, strong and mighty. If you put your faith in any but him, no matter how clean you think your hands are or how pure your heart, you will not enter into that holy place. Here are the questions, then, for you to apply to yourself.
First…Who is your King of glory? What have you put your hope in? What are you resting in to make you acceptable in God's eyes? Who is your King of glory? Who is your hope and the means through which you ultimately think that you'll find yourself an individual who God would see and be satisfied with? Do you trust in your own efforts or in the efforts of one who has offered up his life for you?
Secondly…Do you acknowledge his ownership of everything, everything you have, and do you treat it as if it is fleeting in its permanence? In other words, are you building your hope on this earth, which is built on a foundation of water and will collapse, or are you heeding the words of Christ and living with the principle that you should put your treasure where your heart is?
Thirdly…Have you lifted your soul to another? What's your green jacket? What is it that gives you meaning, celebration, joy, hope, and life? Are you satisfied with a husk of the world? Then you will be satisfied as a swine and assigned a place with the pigs.
Lastly…In response to what you have done, by placing your trust in Christ, if you have, you should ask yourself, "Am I marked by clean hands and a pure heart?" That's what God wants to produce in you and through you for his glory and your good.
Father, as we look at this psalm, it's our hope that we would increasingly become aware of this King of glory, King of our hearts, King of all men. I pray that as a group of people who, by grace, have been trained to understand where real life comes from that we would then, Father, purify our hearts and, having faith in the one who cleanses us, that we would train ourselves to live as he lived and that we would not just ceremonially wash ourselves but purposefully through the conviction of your Word, the fellowship of the saints, and the enabling of your Holy Spirit we would, Father, from a good heart, a sincere faith, and a good conscience make your love known to others.
I pray, Father, that we would not lift our souls to another. If there is a man or a woman in this room today who does not yet know the King of glory, who consistently lifts their soul to another, I pray that this day they would be convicted and they would consider Jesus, whom the gates of heaven have opened for and have received him, who will come again in the unfolding of God's history and bring this earth to its end and bring all of God's people to him.
I pray, Lord, you would pierce their hearts and they would hunger after our King, Jesus Christ, who is strong and mighty, who alone can deal with their sin, and who, in his kindness and grace, offers forgiveness to them.
May they enter your gates with praise and thanksgiving because of what you have done, going before them in the battle and winning, not letting them labor, wondering if they might defeat the Enemy but having defeated the Enemy prior to our even engaging so you would get the glory. We come by faith alone in our King of glory. May our faith not be alone but accompanied by works of blessing which you have appointed beforehand that we should walk in them. Amen.
Music has incredible power to touch our hearts. And some of the greatest songs ever written are found in the book of Psalms. In the Songs of Summer, volume 2, we focus on four more biblical "lyrics" to show how they capture the essence of joy, life and relationship found in Christ. You'll be challenged and encouraged as you hear how beautifully God's word speaks to the deepest needs of our hearts.