Saturday, April 9, 2011

Psalm 24 – The Earth is the LORD’s

“Lift up your heads, O gates!

and be lifted up, O ancient doors!

that the King of glory may come in.”

~Psalm 24:7 (NRSV).

We easily imagine the gathering of a mighty throng. A ceremony is about to begin. Much anticipation fills the air. Momentousness is the mood and stilled is the gait, as people — by their hundreds or thousands — wait patiently for the clangouring of the bell.

The oracle mark is reached signalling for the procession to begin.


There is a ceremonial flow to this psalm easily lost on the naïve modern reader, given that many of us — myself included — are inclined to pull verses out carte blanche to the overall detriment of the powerful original message.

The Lord’s Possession of the Earth

“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,

the world, and those who live in it;

for he has founded it on the seas,

and established it on the rivers.”

~Psalm 24:1-2 (NRSV).

This is no unimportant point. Modern readers will be stumped for meaning in reading verse 2. What is the significance of seas and rivers?

What is insignificant to us had worlds of significance for the ancients. The Canaanite god, Baal, as pagan legend would have it, was to become king at the destruction of Prince Sea and Judge River.

What has the Lord to say of that heresy? Well, the Lord is first. Baal is baseless.

Not so much is it the fact of God possessing earth, than the fact of “to Yahweh, the earth belongs.”

There is an important difference; possession is not an auxiliary issue; it’s primary.

The standing of this psalm requires we understand this fundamental premise. Then, to qualifications of those who may join the procession.

Who Shall Ascend the Hill of the Lord?

Verses 3-6 major on concepts not dissimilar to those raised in the five verses of Psalm 15. Indeed, for structure and content there’s a remarkable likeness.

Those intent on obedience to the law of the Lord are sanctioned — though it’s not perfect people that gain approval of entrance. Those getting the blessing of the Lord are those with a fervent heart for truth, the fact pursuant of repentance.

It’s a heart thing; the ability to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Those who earnestly seek the Lord (verse 6) are welcome in his Presence. Again, this is nothing about spiritual perfection. It’s the commitment to progress that counts!

Annotations of Praise

Like our imagined ceremony, above, we think now to the clangour of that equivocal bell — the achievement of the oracle mark.

Permission to commence the ascension is granted. In fact, it must now occur — no waiting for stragglers.

On the way there, the chants go up (verses 7-10), as in a militarised march. The view is of Gates, of the Temple — into the heart of God!

Thanksgiving makes way for something superior: praise. Praise is the only thing called for; the people of the Lord abuzz for what is now taking place.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: Craig C. Broyles, Psalms – New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), pp. 127-32.

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