Psalm 24: The Earth Is the Lord's, and Everything in It

It is difficult to ascertain exactly when this beautiful Psalm was written.  However as some have suggested it could have been the occasion on which David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem from its temporary resting place in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite (2 Sam. 6).  Symbolically, the God of Israel was said to dwell between the outstretched wings of the two cherubim mounted on the lid of the ark.  Therefore, it would have been appropriate to have a hymn composed like this Psalm for such an occasion. 

When the temple was built in Jerusalem various psalms were sung as part of the daily liturgy. On Monday it was Psalm 48, Tuesday Psalm 82, Wednesday Psalm 94, Thursday Psalm 81, Friday Psalm 93, and on the Sabbath Psalm 92. On the first day of the week they sang Psalm 24.

The question this Psalm asks is one of the most important any man or woman can think about: “What does God require of me?”  This is the ultimate issue that everyone faces, a question everyone must answer. The danger with the big questions of life, of course, is that we seldom stop to think about them.  This Psalm brings us face to face with the ultimate issue of life and forces us to think about it.

Entering the King’s presence is an awesome privilege, and in worship we join the psalmist in preparation for that tremendous experience.  The psalmist is preparing us for an audience with the most magnificent and memorable personality of all times: The Lord, the King of glory. David wrote to instruct the Israelites—and us—about entering the glory of God’s presence. It is a hymn filled with practical application:

To the congregation of Israelites who were receiving the dwelling of God’s presence among them

To the churches of believers who seek the Lord’s presence

To individual believers whose bodies are the dwelling place of God’s Holy Spirit

First, if we are going to enter the Lord’s presence we should reflect on His sovereign supremacy.  His unique majesty is displayed for us daily in the heavens and the earth. By observing God’s glorious creation, we see what a distinct privilege it is to enter His presence.  He owns the earth—everything and everyone in the world (v. 1), even if you think you own it.  Not only does God hold title to the earth but also to everything in it (v. 1b). This is what is meant by the fullness thereof. All that fills the earth, everything contained in it, also belongs to Him.  “Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it” (Deut. 10:14).   John Wesley stated this correctly: “When the Possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being, and placed you in this world, he placed you here not as a proprietor, but a steward.”

By what right does God claim title to the earth and everything in it? Simply stated, it is His because He made it. The psalmist points us back to creation, the founding of the earth out of the waters, as God’s right to the earth. The Almighty spoke the earth into existence out of nothing (Ge. 1-2; cp. Rom. 1:18-32).

Second, we were created for God, for His pleasure and for the purpose of worshipping Him (Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11).  We fulfill our purpose of glorifying God also by living our lives in relationship and faithful service to Him (1 Sam. 12:24; John 17:4).  King Solomon tried living for his own pleasure, yet at the end of his life he concluded that the only worthwhile life is one of honor and obedience to God (Eccl. 12:13–14).

Third, we should realize what an indescribable privilege it is to be invited into the presence of the Lord, but we have nothing to offer Him but ourselves, our hearts, our time, and our affection.  Picture the joyous scene as the Israelites carried the ark of the covenant up the hill to the city of Zion. Their excitement grew with every step and the words of this psalm filled the air as they marched, reminding them of the qualifications for their sacred service. Soon they would enter the Lord’s holy place. As they climbed the hill to Jerusalem, they were forced to examine themselves, to search their hearts and lives for any impurity.

Fourth, we too should concentrate on offering our inner character and outward actions to the Lord.  Notice what the Psalm has to say about this: “The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god” (v. 4).  The results: You will receive God’s blessing and His righteousness (v. 5).

(7-10) A call to welcome the God who reigns over all the earth.

The first section of this psalm declared the greatness of God. The second section spoke of how man can enter the presence of God.  Now the third section welcomes God unto His people by the opening of the gates.

Following the command for the gates and doors to "be lifted up" in exaltation, there is the promise: "And the King of glory shall come in." This assertion evokes an immediate demand for identification. In verse 8, the question "Who is this King of glory?" is followed by reference to His conquests, "The Lord strong and mighty, / The Lord mighty in battle." In verse 10 the same question receives the answer: "The Lord of hosts, / He is the King of glory."

If we assume that King David wrote this psalm either for the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem or in commemoration of it, we can also see that David by inspiration saw in that ceremony the symbol of something much greater. 

We need to open the doors of our hearts to the King of Glory—Jesus Christ—and welcome Him in.  He laid down His life for us, bearing our sin on the cross. He longs to come and dwell within us through His Holy Spirit. Hear His heartfelt plea:

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Re. 3:20).  “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:57-58).

There are those who believe that these last verses take us to the gates of Heaven to declare the triumph of Christ as he enters Heaven itself, proving that God’s requirements have been met and that He is the rightful King of glory and that He leads His saints into heaven.