Who May Ascend?

Psalm 24 opens by declaring that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the God of ALL the earth (“the earth is the Lord’s”). The next verse (:3) asks a vital question: “Who may ascend into the hill of YHWH, and who may stand in His holy place?” Having established that there is a God, Yahweh, to Whom belongs the whole world and everything in it, then the single most important question in life is: how may you know Him? If one ignores this question, he is missing the whole point of life.

So how may one know the one true God? The Bible makes one thing clear: access to God is not “easy.” The Psalm refers to “the HILL of the Lord” – it is high; it is “separate”; no one may merely “waltz” into it! Then it speaks of His abode as “His HOLY place” – God and His dwelling is HOLY. :4 re-emphasizes this qualification of HOLINESS: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”

But upon reflection, we see that this is a HOPELESS qualification, if based on human merit. Who may ascend into the hill of The Lord?” The verse says:
— “He who has clean hands …” But who has clean hands? Who has not soiled himself with sinful deeds? As onerous as that is, the next qualification is even more stringent:
— “… and a pure heart” – even IF one were able to have clean hands, who could boldly assert that his HEART is clean?! Even IF you had avoided all defiling deeds for a day, how many countless THOUGHTS and lusts and bitternesses and other sinful attitudes have defiled your HEART?! If there were no other of the 10 Commandments in existence, the 10th would condemn us all by itself: “Thou shalt not covet”!

Our inability to keep that commandment, and to have “clean hands & a pure heart”, should cause each of us to despair of any ability to reach heaven based on our own righteousness. It points to the necessity of a righteousness OUTSIDE of ourselves if we are to be saved.

And that is exactly what God has provided for us through Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 5:21, describing the gospel, says: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” When you trust Jesus as your Savior, He “cleans your hands” and “purifies your heart” before God, allowing you to “enter the hill of the Lord”, not based on your inadequate holiness, but on HIS perfect righteousness. The answer to the question, “Who may ascend” the hill of the Lord, is: “the person who receives a righteousness far greater his own, through faith in Jesus Christ”!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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