I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Saturday, July 28, 2012



The whole earth is YHWH’s,                                       1a
    and the fullness of it;                                                    b

the habitable world [is YHWH’s],                                      c
   and they that inhabit it.                                                        d

For he founded it upon the seas,                                 2a
   and established it upon the moving waters.                   b

Who shall go up into the mountain of YHWH?           3a
   Who shall stand up in his holy place?                           b

He who has innocent hands, and a clean heart;         4a
   who does not lift up his soul to vain things,                   b
   and he who does not swear deceitfully.                            c

He shall lift up a blessing from YHWH;                      5a
   righteousness from the God of his salvation.                 b

Such is the generation of them that seek him, 6a
   that seek his presence—[even] Jacob.  Selah.               b

Lift up your heads, O gates;                                        7a
   lift up, O eternal doors,                                                 b
   that the King of glory might come in.                               c

Who is this King of glory?                                           8a

YHWH, strong and mighty;                                              b
   YHWH, mighty in battle.                                                  c

Lift up your heads, O gates;                                        9a
   lift up, O eternal doors,                                                 b
   that the King of glory might come in.                               c

Who is this King of glory?                                           10a

YHWH of Hosts,                                                                 b
   he is the King of glory. Selah.                                           c

In Psalm 24, there are a number of eschatological trajectories that find their termini in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

The provisional piety that this psalm lays much stress on is high indeed, but it is just that, provisional.  The psalm intimates that the worshipper with “innocent hands” and a “clean heart” may enter in to the “holy place,” seeking the Presence of YHWH.   Who, though, really seeks the presence of the living God, who is a consuming fire?  None; no, not one (Rom 3:10—12).  David’s son himself rhetorically asks, “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’”? (Prov 20:9).  And, again, the answer is none; no, not one.  Something must happen in salvation history, if the communion between God and his people will be accomplished in the grandiose, eschatological intimacy foreshadowed in Psalm 24.  And it has.
Second Samuel 6 is the primary background that is commemorated in this psalm.  YHWH comes into Jerusalem, enthroned on the Ark between the cherubim.  This event, however, was only a type or foreshadow of the good things to come, then and now. 
In Matt 21, the type finds its antitype in the Person of Jesus.  In this pericope, Jesus himself fulfills the post-exilic promise of YHWH’s return to Jerusalem (Is 62:11; Zech 9:9; Matt 21:5).  With a mighty procession, preceding and following him (21:9a), Jesus rides into Jerusalem enthroned, as it were, sitting on the donkey with her colt as his footstool—an Ark (v 7).  As Jesus entered, the whole city was stirred, asking, “Who is this [King of glory]?” (Ps 24:8, 10 // Matt 21:10, brackets added).  Jesus is YHWH; Jesus is the King of glory, returning to Jerusalem, humble and gentle, enthroned on the Ark. 
Jerusalem did not know the time of their visitation, however (Lk 19:44); and they murdered the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8).  In this abortion of justice is precisely where Jesus, YHWH of Hosts, would show himself “strong and mighty, mighty in battle” (Ps 24:8b, c).  Taking the King of glory down from his cross of glory (think Johannine theology of the cross), they placed him in the true Ark, Jesus’ tomb.  On that first Easter morning, Mary peered into the Ark and lived (contra. 1 Sam 6:19)! 
Mary looked into the tomb and saw the true Ark.  “And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying” (Jn 20:12, italics added).  All that the Ark had been looking toward had been fulfilled in Mary’s sight.  The slab of the sepulcher of Jesus was flanked by two cherubim, one on each end; the slab is the true mercy seat, where the once-for-all atonement was made for God’s people.  The Father set forth Jesus as a propitiation, a hilasmos, for the sins of the world (Rom 3:25, Heb 2:17; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10).[1]  Paul, by applying this title to Christ in Rom 3:25, assures us that Christ was the true mercy seat, the reality of the cover of the Ark of the covenant (Heb 9:5).
Psalm 24:3b asks, Who shall stand up in his holy place?   The writer to the Hebrews answers; it is only Jesus who can stand up in the true holy place.  “[Jesus] entered the holy place once for all, having appointed eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12 NASBU).  Christ, however, “did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one,” as under the old covenant, “but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us!” (9:24 NASBU). 
How are we to apprehend the requisite righteousness from the God of [our] salvation (Ps 24:5b)?  By throwing ourselves on the Mercy Seat of God, God’s hilasmos, Jesus Christ, who with innocent hands and pure heart became sin for us, “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21; cf. 1 Pet 2:24).  In him, we will stand in the Most Holy Place,[2] in the unmediated Presence of God.  We will ascend unto the true City of God, the new Jerusalem, where the gates are always open (Rev 21:25)!
This is just one of the many trajectories that are satisfied in Christ.  Another interesting one would be David, who was king of Israel, wearing the ephod, offering sacrifices, and pronouncing blessings over the people (2 Sam 6), thus blurring the strict distinctions between kingship and priesthood in Torah.  This would lead us straightway to the Melchizedekian motif of Ps 110, which too finds its fulfillment in the Priest-Kingship of Jesus (Heb 7, etc.).  
The purpose of Ps 24 is to point the people of God back to the future.  It points back to a most momentous event in salvation history, when both YHWH’s and David’s thrones were established in Jerusalem, bringing the Presence of God and peace with all of Israel’s surrounding enemies.  Likewise, it looks to the future, to a time when YHWH would return enthroned on the Ark to Jerusalem; therefore, it looked to the Messiah; it looked, though unwittingly, to the death, resurrection, and heavenly session of Jesus, the Lord of glory in his glory!  Looking still future, it points to the age to come, when, because of Christ our righteousness, all of the elect will enjoy and relish in the unmediated Presence of God in the new creation, the new Jerusalem.
Psalm 24 also quickens the heart and mind of the worshipper to the gravity and weightiness of his calling.  Whether then, for those who do not lift up their hearts to vain things or swear deceitfully (Ps 24:4b, c), now (Matt 5; 2 Cor 7:1), or future (Rev 21:27), this psalm stresses that there is a requisite holiness for the people of God, “without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14)!

[1] I am indebted to Israel Stevenson, my daughter (16 years), for her observation of the likely Ark/mercy seat imagery (antitype?) in Jn 20, in Jesus’ tomb, having the angels flank the slab as cherubim flanked the mercy seat.    

[2] The description of the new creation as a cube, since “its length and height and width are equal” (Rev 21:16), is surely an allusion to the temple’s Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6:20).


  1. An able exegesis of and important Psalm. When we read, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall rise up in His holy place?" our souls should immediately recoil in the fearful knowledge that "all have sinned" and cannot, of our own ability, do either. They should then turn in humble adoration and faith to the One who can, our Lord Jesus Christ. Your daughter's observations are also quite interesting, and show a real heart for the Word.


  2. Amen, and amen, Bishop Campbell. Thanks for the further observations: O how true they are! Israel was delighted to hear your valuation of her contribution. She is starting at Liberty this semester, majoring in elementary education with a minor in biblical studies. Have a blessed week!