The Righteous One’s Ascension
a brief study of Psalm 24, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 10 Nov 2006
Psalm 24 is so obviously a Messianic psalm that it will probably surprise many of us to know that it is not classified as such by many modern commentators.
This psalm might have been written by David to celebrate the occasion of the ark being brought up to Jerusalem from the house of Obed-Edom. But those who read it with spiritual evangelical eyes will not doubt see that the event is prophetic or typical of the Lord Jesus’ ascension to heaven.
It is no coincidence that the apostle Paul quotes another ascension psalm, Psalm 68 (v. 18) to refer to the ascension of Christ in Ephesians 4:7-13.
Psalm 24 carries a similar theme.
It has three distinct stanzas. The first stanza, from verse 1-2 speaks of God not only as creator, but as the governor over the world. In the second stanza, from verse 3-6, we have a reference to the qualities of the Redeemer of the world. And finally, in the third stanza, from v. 7 to the end, we rejoice in the exaltation of the Redeemer.
1. God the Creator & Governor
1 The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. 2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
The opening verse of this psalm is quoted by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:26 to remind us that all things in this universe exists for the glory of God. "The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof." The earth and all its inhabitants belong to God.
God is He who created the world. God is He who set the watery boundaries of every piece of land.
He is the sovereign ruler over all things in the universe.
But He is not just the ruler over the irrational creation: the mountains and rocks and rivers and animals. He is especially the ruler over man.
In fact, the sea is often used in the Scripture to symbolise the world of restless humanity. Do not the restless waves crashing unto the shoreline remind us so vividly of the turmoil in the world and the troubles that swirl around our life on account of sin?
But we must not let the restlessness of this sea dishearten us. We must remember that God is sitting enthroned upon the flood. He created the world. He is the ruler over the world.
And more than that, He has appointed a Redeemer for the world. This is He who will emerge out of restless humanity, and will lead a people out of bondage to sin and the pleasures and suffering of this world to the glorious presence of God.
Who is this Redeemer?
2. Christ the Redeemer
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
The Redeemer is he who alone can ascend the hill of God; who alone can stand in God’s holy place. The Redeemer alone has clean hands and a pure heart. He is pure in his heart and pure in his deeds. There is no guile and hypocrisy in his heart. He does not lift his soul unto vanity. There are no idols in his life. The chief end in his life is to glorify God. He does not swear deceitfully. His yea is yea and nay is nay.
Who is this but the Lord Jesus Christ alone! He alone, of all man is perfectly pure in heart and in deeds. He alone keeps His promise perfectly. He alone has no secrets to hide. He alone is not ashamed to expose His entire life to public view and to the view of His Father.
The most righteous man apart from Him bears secret sins and knowledge of secret sins which he will not share with any man. But Christ our Lord is perfect. There is no double and uncertain talk in His tongue. He does not say one thing and mean another. He does not make promises, which He cannot keep.
His whole life may be described as unfeigned love for God and love for man.
He lived for us. He did not live for Himself. He sought not the pleasures of the world, for that was not what He came to do. He came to deliver us from the turmoil and bondage of the restless world.
He would die to pay for the penalty due to our sin. Then He would rise from the dead and ascend up to the Father.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
He shall receive of the Father in order to give gifts to men, as the apostle Paul puts it (cf. Eph 4:8).
These are the men, and women, and children who are accounted for a generation in Psalm 22. This is the generation that seeks Him—
6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.
Jacob is but another name for Christ for Jacob is synonymous with Israel which is the name of the people of God, the church. Christ is the head of the church, of which the people is the body.
Thus Matthew, in the New Testament, could apply a prophecy about Israel in the Old Testament to the Lord. Remember how the prophet Hosea quotes God as saying: "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1). He is referring to the people. But Matthew tells us that this prophecy is fulfilled in God’s calling the Lord out of Egypt after the death of Herod (Mt 2:15).
Israel, Jacob is the typical name of Christ our Saviour. Our Saviour, our Redeemer is He who came for us and after accomplishing His work ascended up to heaven as our perfect representative.
He ascended that He might pour down His gifts, even the gift of His Spirit upon His covenant people and all who seek Him and call upon His name.
When we think about that great work that He came to do and His ascension to heaven, our hearts are naturally lifted up with praise and thanksgiving to Him.
So this psalm concludes with high praises for Christ our exalted Lord.
3. The Exaltation of Christ the King
7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory.
It is hard to say anything that will not mar the beauty and loftiness of these words of exaltation. Christ has ascended. He was taken by a cloud and disappeared from the sight of His disciples watching His ascension. Like a ship disappearing over the horizon appears on another shore, so our Lord disappeared out of the sight of earth only to appear in dimension of existence.
Where does He appear when He disappeared from the sight of mortal man? He appears no doubt at the gates of the celestial city.
A million angels must have accompanied Him. He went into battle. He has returned victorious. He is the King of glory. He’s name has been even more greatly magnified for He was made strong and mighty in battle. There is great celebration!
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors," the angels must have cried.
Today as we join in the refrain, let us not only lift up our head and rejoice at what our Lord has accomplished for us. Let us also lift up the doors of our hearts to welcome the Lord to rule over us.
For Christ must not only be enthroned in heaven at the right hand of the throne of God; He must be enthroned in our heart.
Beloved brethren and children: Christ your Lord has ascended up on high. He has given you the gift of the Holy Spirit which He promised to His people.
And He is ruling the world by the word of His power. Nothing, and absolutely nothing is outside His control. Did you come tonight with a heavy burden in your heart? Will you not turn your eyes to the Lord to look to Him? I have done that. He has lifted up my burdens even as I call unto Him to take control of my life again. He has filled my heart with glory, for He is the King of glory. Oh beloved brethren, lift up your heads. Lift up the door of your hearts that through you Christ may again be exalted. Amen.
— JJ Lim