Worthy Welcome

July 23, 2017 ()

Bible Text: Psalm 24 |


Worthy Welcome | Psalm 24
Phil Krause | July 23, 2017

I would ask that you continue to pray for Pastor Brian as he starts this last week of his writing leave, and he’ll be back with us next week, so we can look forward to that. I can say this, because I’m not, and he could never say this, but what a gift we have in Pastor Brian, and I hope that you appreciate his preaching and his leadership over us. All of us need to really just thank the Lord for what he does week in and week out. So I just wanted to say that; I very much appreciate his preaching and his leadership in this church.

Think for a moment, if you will, of the extents to which people go to welcome political dignitaries or even royalty. When the President enters, for example, you might hear the band might play “Hail to the Chief,” there are parades, things like that.

I have a little bit of personal experience with this, believe it or not. In the spring of 1986, the U.S. ambassador to the country of Honduras, a man by the name of John Ferch, visited my little hometown of Siguatepeque, Honduras. So of course, the mayor and the city council of Siguatepeque rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Ferch.

Well, not exactly literally. The town didn’t have a U.S. flag or a recording, even, of the U. S. national anthem, so they called on the little gringuitos from the missionary kids’ school to supply both. And we did! I was in the eighth grade that year, and I think probably the whole school formed the choir for the ambassador. There were 22 of us, grades one through eight, and we practiced “The Star-Spangled Banner” for weeks.

Sure enough, we sang for the mayor of Siguatepeque and the U.S. ambassador to Honduras. It might have been all the pomp the little town could muster, but it was still as special as they could make it.

Contrast that with this. Just about a week and a half ago, the king and queen of Spain, King Felipe VI and his wife Letizia, visited the United Kingdom. It was the first official state visit of a king and queen of Spain to the country of England in 31 years, so you can bet the reception was a little more grand than what we gave John Ferch in Siguatepeque in 1986! There was a full-scale military welcome; more than 1,000 troops took part in the ceremonies.

Now listen to how precisely choreographed everything was (I’m reading from an article in the Mirror, dated July 12 of this year):

“The gates of Horse Guards, the official entrance to the Royal Palaces, will be opened for the arrival by car of the King and Queen of Spain.” These are gates that are normally not open, but this time they’re going to be open.

“Fifteen members of The Queen’s Life Guard, mounted on black chargers, positioned in the front yard on Whitehall, will give a salute, and a trumpeter will sound.

“As the King and Queen of Spain arrive at ten past noon, the Flagman will break the National Flag of Spain on the roof of Horse Guards.

“As the King places his foot upon the first step—” I mean, this is so choreographed! As he “places his foot upon of the Royal Pavilion - marking his official arrival for the visit - Royal Gun salutes will be fired from Green Park and the Tower of London.

“As The Queen,” meaning Queen Elizabeth of England, “greets the King (they were met by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles and Camilla), the National Anthem of Spain will be played and The Queen will then invite the King of Spain to inspect the Guard of Honour and Prince Philip will accompany him.

“The royal party will process by carriage (drawn by a team of six beautiful white horses while the band played) for a private lunch before viewing an exhibition of Spanish items from the Royal Collection.

“King Felipe will make a speech in Parliament in the afternoon before the state Banquet where Kate,” meaning Kate Middleton, “is expected to wear a tiara for just the sixth time since she married into the Royal Family.”

So, suffice it to say: When a ruler comes to town, there is always a parade, or some kind of reception. Everyone wants to see this king, this queen, this president. They want to give a worthy welcome.

Keep that in mind as we read Psalm 24. This is a song written by a king, David, for the praise and worship of the King of kings, the King of Glory. Psalm 24.

“The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
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.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

“Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O 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, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory! Selah.”

This is the Word of the Lord.

And Lord, we do ask that you would open our ears, open our hearts, to receive what you have for us today. Amen.

This King of Glory, who rightly expects holiness from his people, is worthy of our highest praises. We want to give a worthy welcome to this King of Glory.

And so today, we will see in this passage:

I. His rule over all – complete ownership
II. His requirements for approaching Him – utter holiness
III. The riches He promises – blessing and righteousness
IV. The reception He deserves – joyful praise

I. His Rule Over All

David begins this song of worship with this huge, grand, sweeping declaration: "The earth is THE LORD'S..." He’s quick to point out that we’re not just talking about real estate here. We’re not just talking about the planet earth. No; it says, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”

This is classic ancient Hebrew poetry; parallelism, right? First David states it one way, then he kind of comes at it from a little bit different angle and states the same thing. The facets of a diamond can sparkle the best, be examined the best, when you turn that diamond just a little bit. Suddenly all the sparkles come. That’s what David’s doing here; this is what Hebrew poetry does. So don’t think, “Oh, this is boring; this is repetition.” No! This is saying the same thing from a slightly different angle so that then we can see something else about it.

David is saying that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything about it, including the people living in it, are all his!

I was thinking about this. There are different ways that something can be someone's.

You can pay money for it; we call that purchasing, buying something. This is to transfer the rights from one owner to another.

You can take it; that’s stealing, and there again, both of those assume that it belonged to someone else first, or you can make it. You can create it.

This is the strongest kind of ownership, and that’s what’s being described here.

How is it that the earth is the Lord’s? It tells us in verse two. He didn’t buy it. He didn’t steal it. He made it. Verse two: “... for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”

It's all God’s because he made it all! He is the owner. He made us. So we're his. (A side note here, he also bought us, so we're doubly his! What a comforting thought.)

The opening words of the Bible, Genesis 1:1, very simply and yet very boldly proclaim, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

So this appeal to God as creator is seen many times in the Bible. I’m going to read just a partial list. Listen while I read this appeal to God as creator.

Creation is the justification for capital punishment in Genesis nine, verse six.
God’s creation of everything in six days is listed as the reason we should rest, keep the Sabbath day holy and set apart, Exodus chapter 20, verse eleven, and more throughout the book of Exodus.
Creation is the basis for calling God Father, Deuteronomy 32:6.
His creative power should prevent us from speaking back to God, to lay our hands over our mouths, like Job in Job chapters 38 through 40.
His creation of us makes us his, it says in Psalm 100, verse three: “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people…”
Because He made heaven and earth, our help comes from Him, Psalm 121 and 124.
His creation of the heavens show how vast his understanding is, Psalm 136, verse five; Jeremiah 51:15.
It gives him the right to withhold his compassion from His people, Isaiah 27:11
Creation shows the utter uniqueness and supremacy of God, Isaiah 40:25 and 26.
Isaiah 42:5, his creation of all is the basis for his authority and the reason we should listen when he speaks. It says, “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it.” He goes on to say, “I am the Lord…”
Creation is the reason we can trust him and not fear, Isaiah 43, verse 1, and 44, verse 2.
Creation gives us purpose. Isaiah 43:7 says we are created for his glory.
In Isaiah chapter 45 creation is basis for his absolute authority, even over pagan King Cyrus. “Will you command Me?” God says, verse 18: “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!),who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.’”
His creation shows He cannot be contained, Isaiah 66, verses one and two.
It shows he is the true God, as opposed to false gods, Jeremiah chapter ten, verses eleven and 12.
Because He made the heavens and the earth there is nothing too difficult for Him, Jeremiah chapter 32, verse 17.
In many passages, God is identified as the creator almost like an extension of His name. For example, Jonah said to the sailors, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” He is called Maker in many places in the book of Job, the Psalms, the Proverbs, and Isaiah – it’s a title for God; he’s our maker. We see the term Creator in Ecclesiastes, Isaiah 40, Isaiah 43, Romans one, Colossians three, First Peter four.
Jesus gave the creation of man and woman as the reason we should not divorce one another for any reason, Matthew chapter 19, verse four.
Creation is a great starting point for witnessing to unbelievers, Acts 17, Paul on Mars Hill.
The creation of all things is specifically connected to Christ and the reason for his preeminence above all, Colossians chapter one, Hebrews chapter one.
The order of creation (Adam being formed first, then Eve) is given as reason women should not teach or exercise authority over men in the context of the Church, First Timothy 2:13.
This appeal to creation is basis for eating any food; everything created by God is good, First Timothy chapter four, verses three and four.
And in Revelation 4:11 the 24 elders cast their crowns before the throne and proclaim the worthiness of God: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

So ownership. Rule. He made it, so He owns it. It’s all His.

We understand this concept pretty well. A kid comes home from school: “Mommy, look what I made,” right? “We did a craft. Here are the popsicle sticks,” or whatever, “that I put together into this thing, and now I’m giving it to you.” He lovingly bestows it to Mommy, and Mommy, of course, adoringly takes it and puts in a box in the closet or wherever, until the child is older and we can throw it away—no, I don’t know.

But the point is, the child isn’t sitting there thinking, “The school provided some popsicle sticks and glue to me and therefore it really kind of belongs to the school, and…” No! “I made it, and therefore it’s mine.” This is a standard concept.

If you work in any kind of creative job, you understand well the concept of “Intellectual property,” right, and you also understand why it’s stealing to take something that someone else has written or said and claim it as your own when it’s not.

So it’s worth noting that our creativity is only derivative. Anything we create we have to use some ingredients, right? But God just spoke and brought things into existence by his word. He made it, therefore it’s all his.

Pastor Maltbie Babcock, from Lockport, NY, understood this.

He used to like to hike in area called “the escarpment,” a beautiful rocky ledge near Lockport. Apparently, it boasts this wonderful view, or did boast, a wonderful view of farms, orchards, and about 15 miles away you can see Lake Ontario. When he went out on these hikes, he would often, “I’m going out to see my Father’s world.” In 1901, he penned this hymn that expresses well this concept of God’s ownership and sovereign rule over all.

“This is my Father’s world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

“This is my Father’s world,
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

“This is my Father’s world.
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
The battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.”

Logically, we would expect that the Creator of something has the right to spell out rules and limits for his creation.

II. The Requirements for Approaching the King – Utter Holiness

We see that in number two, the requirements for approaching the King: utter holiness.

Verse three: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 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.”

Now, you may not know this about me, but I know a thing or two about ascending hills.

On the slide you will see a photo taken in the fall of 1989. Does anyone recognize this mountain in the northwestern corner of South Carolina?

Didn’t think so. It’s Table Rock State Park in South Carolina. This is actually kind of the back side of Table Rock here; the front side is this sort of granite, dome-shaped thing. It rises about 2,000 feet up, and at the top its elevation 3,124 feet.

So my buddies Cliff and Chris and I decided to try to climb up the face of this rock, with no ropes. So in this slide you can see a picture of us working our way up. We actually did find a way to get up. At kind of right about that point we had this sort of scary moment where Chris, who was the tallest one of us, lifted me up, and I was able to scramble up onto the ledge. Then I tied myself with some shirts to a tree and hung over and—anyway, Chris managed to get up, and then Cliff climbed up Chris, and we got up. And this is the type of thing we wrote home to later.

As you can see in this slide, we did make it to the top, and me with my super-cool multi-colored hat. We ascended this 2,000-foot hill, and we had a great feeling of accomplishment. And we went back down by the trail. There was a hiking trail to the top.

That was easy compared to what Alex Honnold did just last month, on June 3; you might have heard about this. He became the first person to ever free-solo (with no ropes) up the face of Yosemite’s famous El Capitan mountain. There’s an amazing picture. Three thousand feet up, no trees to tie your flannel shirts to. It was crazy. Crazy, crazy!

But in Psalm 24, God tells us, “Here’s how you can ascend the hill of the Lord. It has a lot less to do with ropes and a lot more to do with character and holiness.”

He says, “You need to have clean hands, a pure heart, you need to not be an idol worshipper, and you need to tell the truth, not be a liar.”

First of all, let’s look at this, clean hands: This has to do with my deeds, my actions. The Law clearly spelled out to anyone what was clean or unclean. This psalm wouldn’t have been too hard for the ancient Hebrew worshipper to understand. In fact, it could be argued that the whole Law was designed to show us over and over and over that in fact we are not clean. Galatians chapter three talks about that, where Paul says that the Law is meant to be like a schoolteacher to show us our need for a savior.

So any wrong or sinful action, the implication is, my hands are not clean.

Next, we see that the one who can successfully ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in His holy place must have a pure heart. This is the realm of our thoughts and attitudes. Jesus said in Matthew chapter five, verse eight, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Proverbs 20:9, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’?” Implication? No one!

The biblical concept of the heart is this concept of a control center. In our heart is where decisions are made, our thoughts are thought, our emotions are felt. It’s the immaterial part of man.

So any sinful thought or attitude that I have shows me that my heart is not pure.

Third requirement for standing in the presence of God is that we not be idolatrous. It says, “Who does not lift up his soul to what is false.” This speaks of what a person worships. No false gods. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but it’s really a key concept. In Ezekiel chapter 14 God condemned certain elders of Israel who had “taken idols into their hearts…” We have to resist this constant tendency of our sinful nature to keep cranking out more idols.

So, any thought or person or activity or pursuit that takes precedence over God means that I am lifting my soul to what is false.

Next, if you’re going to make it into the presence of God you must not be a liar, not deceitful, “who does not swear deceitfully,” is what it says in Psalm 24.

This is in the arena of our words. So we have deeds and thoughts and worship and words.

I don’t know about you, but lying is one of the first sins I actually remember consciously committing, and it went hand in hand with stealing. I took something that I wasn’t supposed to, and then the question was asked, “Did you take it?” And what did I say? “No!”

You don’t have to teach a child to lie. Any parent can tell you that. You have to teach them to tell the truth! The Apostle Paul, in one of the famous put off/put on passages, Ephesians chapter four, verses 22 through 25, says, “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
And the first item on his list of specifics:
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
So, any attempt to deceive on my part implies I am lying. We just heard it sung, right? I’m caught up in words, tangled in lies.
Now before we go on to look at the riches and the rewards promised to someone who meets these requirements, let me stop and ask you this: Does this feel a little hopeless? God requires holiness. Perfection!

You might think, “Come on! This is impossible!” It’s like the hill we’re supposed to climb is worse than El Capitan! All the cliffs slant backwards, and there’s no cracks to put your fingers in, or anything like that. Yes, that’s right; it is.

But remember, God wants to show us our need for a Savior. The Law was intended to show us how bad off we are.

III. The Riches He Promises – blessing and righteousness

Now let’s look at the riches that God promises, blessing and righteousness.

Verse five, “He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.”

The blessings for obedience in the Old Testament mindset were very physical, material blessings, like it’s going to rain, your crops are going to produce fruit, you’ll have safety from your enemies, success in battle. But here David goes on to point out that these rewards, these riches for the one with clean hands and a pure heart are not just physical.

He talks about righteousness: a right standing before God. That’s a spiritual blessing. Holiness. Uprightness. I think this is really cool, because one of the requirements is you need to be holy; you need to be righteous, but yet, at the same time, it’s saying that one of the rewards is that he will give you righteousness. So we see here a clue that this righteousness is something we have to receive from the Lord. That’s really important.

Look at verse six: having clean hands and a pure heart is equated to seeking the face of the God of Jacob. So the implication here is that not only do you receive physical blessings from the Lord, not only do you receive spiritual blessings (righteousness), you also get God himself.

Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 13: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

We sang it just this morning: Oh God, let us be a generation who seeks your face, Oh God of Jacob.

IV. The Reception the King Deserves – Joyful praise, adoration

We see, number four, the reception the King deserves: joyful praise and adoration. Verses seven through ten:

“Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O 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, O gates!
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory!”

Blow the trumpets! Open the gates! Spruce up! Mow the lawn, weed the flowerbeds, smooth out the roads! It calls to mind Isaiah chapter 40, where he says the valleys need to be exalted and the high places need to be brought low. Make a smooth highway, because the King is coming! These are very militaristic terms, too. He’s strong, he’s mighty in battle; he’s the Lord of hosts. He’s in charge of armies of angels!

So what kind of reception for this kind of a King? He deserves joyful adoration, utter fear, exuberant praise, humble gratitude. All of this and so much more.

In conclusion, the problem, I’ve been talking about it all along, the problem is that we willfully rebel against our King’s rule. We say, “I don’t care if I’m yours, God, I want to do what I want to do.”

Nobody has clean hands. Problem is nobody has a pure heart. The problem is we all lift up our souls to false things. We all try to deceive; we don’t fear God. We don’t seek His face.

But praise God for Jesus, the Christ! We couldn’t ascend that hill, but he descended and became one of us. He did ascend a hill for us—Calvary.

He alone has clean hands. He alone has a pure heart. He is the only human being who has never lifted his soul to something false. He never lied. He perfectly fears God the Father.

In fact, though he didn’t look like what people were expecting, Jesus actually is the King of Glory. He was welcomed through the city gates, all right. They were singing, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” And within a week he was being crowned…with a crown of thorns. They missed the servant King, because his kingdom didn’t look like they thought it should. But he was actually earning those blessings and that righteousness for us!

So it’s as if we’re standing at the bottom of this impossibly steep, impossibly un-climbable cliff, saying, “I can’t. There’s no way,” and God the Father says, “That’s right, you can’t get to me in your sin. You need to be righteous.” The beauty of the Gospel is that he took our unrighteousness, placed it on Christ, and then gave us the righteousness of Christ. It’s as though a mysterious door opens up in the bottom of this cliff, and lo and behold, there’s a shaft in there, with an elevator. A tunnel inside the mountain! Written on the elevator doors are words from some great hymns of the faith:

Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne,
On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling,
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace,
Foul, I to the Fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die!

No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus and all in Him is mine,
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown through Christ my own!

So the first time the King of Glory came, not many people noticed. His welcome was given by humble shepherds and dreamy, star-gazing foreigners.

But make no mistake…he’s coming back. He is the King of Glory, the Lord of Hosts, mighty in battle. And he will return. Soon! Let’s be ready to give him the reception he truly deserves!!

Here’s the last thing I’m going to say, and then we’ll pray and celebrate the table of the Lord’s table together.

The best way to receive the King of Glory (that is, to give him a proper ruler’s reception) is to be caught doing the work of the Kingdom when he shows up. If you need to know how to do that, the work of the Kingdom, read the New Testament gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus said a lot about the Kingdom and life in the Kingdom. Study his life; imitate him.

But again, the best way to receive the King of Glory is to be caught, red-handed, doing the work of the Kingdom when he shows up. Let’s pray.

Oh Jesus, our King of Glory, forgive us for our unclean hands, our idolatrous pursuits, the tendency we have to not follow you in righteousness. Thank you. Thank you for your righteousness, imputed to us at Calvary, at the cross. Such a beautiful, beautiful thing.

We do ask that you would be glorified in our lives. Help us to be ready to receive you when you return. Help us not to be sitting around, but instead to be working hard at your Kingdom work already, so that when you return we will be ready. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.