Theme: Part One: The Earth Is God’s
In this week’s lessons we learn how this psalm serves as a Messianic psalm, as Jesus enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as Israel’s King.
Scripture: Psalm 24:1-10
I have pointed out in dealing with earlier psalms that it is not always easy to tell which psalms are Messianic, that is, which psalms actually prophecy something about the Messiah to come. This is because they are often couched in images based on natural situations or events. For example, they may speak of a king. But we wonder: Are we to think of the king as King David (or one of the human descendants of King David), or is this rather a veiled reference to the King of kings, that is, to Jesus? Since it is not always easy to tell which is the case, we have to be cautious when we draw Christian allusions or teachings from these essentially Jewish poems.
But we do not have a problem in the case of this psalm. Some psalms may be ambiguous. But how can a psalm be ambiguous which speaks of opening the gates of Jerusalem to “the LORD” (that is, Jehovah), to “the King of glory” or to “the LORD Almighty”? In this case, there is no ambiguity at all.
Some psalms take a human condition and build it to describe a situation which may involve God. This psalm is the reverse. It forthrightly describes the entrance of God into his holy city of Jerusalem, though in terms of an earthly king returning to his capital after a military victory.
The psalm is not simple. It is more complex than this introductory description sounds. To begin with, two entries are described. The first, which occupies verses 3-6, is about God’s people coming to God’s city. It asks the question: Who is able to come? This part sounds very much like Psalm 15 or one of the Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134). The second part, verses 7-10, describes the coming of God to his people. Both sections are preceded by a statement that the earth and all that is in it are God’s.
At first glance, the opening verses of Psalm 24 may seem inappropriate. For what is the point of a declaration that God owns the world and everything in it in a psalm that describes the coming of the Ark of God (or Jesus) to Jerusalem? Not a few scholars have felt the difficulty and have proposed that the psalm is actually a combination of three formerly unrelated compositions. Actually, the opening is not all that strange. It is actually a warning not to think of God in exclusivistic terms.
It is also appropriate. The bulk of the psalm describes the people of God coming to Jerusalem—we must assume that they are largely Jews—and God also coming to his city. It would be very easy for the people to conclude from this description that God is a Jewish God exclusively, that is, that he is for Jews only or somehow loves Jews more than other people. We know how strong that idea later became, because even in the days of the Lord Jesus Christ the disciples seemed unable to think of a worldwide kingdom but thought instead of an exclusively Jewish one. Thus, even after the resurrection they were asking Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6)? Their understanding of the kingdom was restricted ethnically (it was for “Israel”), politically (it was a “restoration” of the earlier kingdom of David) and geographically (it was to be centered in Jerusalem).
Jesus had to teach them that his was to be a spiritual kingdom which would extend throughout the world: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v. 8).
The opening verses of Psalm 24 are an Old Testament expression of this truth. They tell us that, although for a time God did in a way tie his earthly presence to Jerusalem, God nevertheless is God of all the earth. “The world and all who live in it” belong to him. If you are a part of this world, as you are, you owe him allegiance as your true and rightful King. You have a great responsibility. But from it there also flows a great blessing.
In seeing how this psalm fits with Jesus’ coming into Jerusalem, what does that tell us about Jesus’ true identity?
From the lesson, what was a common view of God and his kingdom?
How did Jesus correct this idea?
Application: Do you acknowledge God as your one true King over every aspect of your life? Or is there an area you are struggling to turn over to him?