Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

We’ve decided to lay down our tools for building our own personal hill. We’ve decide there really is a hill to climb. But we are still left with the question of who actually gets to climb it. The God who “dwells” on this hill owns everything because He created it all. Surely, not just anyone can make their way into His presence. A similar question was asked in Psalm 15. Almost every bit of that qualification list had to do with the worshipers relationship with others. This list, however, seems to give the other side. This one is mostly about our relationship with God. The four qualifications: 1) Clean hands. 2) Pure heart. 3) Worship God only. 4) Honest; though, considering the list, this is probably more about not profaning God’s name (see Leviticus 19:12). Isaiah seems to have these same principles in mind in the context of Isaiah 59:3. God doesn’t listen to the worship offered by those with defiled hands. Paul makes this same point in 1 Timothy 2:8 when he points out men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger and quarreling. While this statement demonstrates prayer with uplifted hands was a norm for Christians in the New Testament, his main emphasis is those uplifted hands were supposed to be clean. Perhaps the most pointed allusion to this passage is often overlooked by commentators and search engines (maybe because the Greek words aren’t the same as those in the LXX for Psalm 24:4). In James 4:8, James says sinners need to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. But, contextually, this was part of drawing near to God so He will draw near to us. This is part of submitting ourselves to God and resisting the devil. It is part of humbling ourselves before God. And the pure heart actually means to be single-minded, which, of course, means our mind doesn’t go after other masters. We don’t become friends with the world or with false gods. But here is a fantastic principle we need to grasp. The person of Psalm 24:4 is not the sinlessly perfect person who has brought his/her own righteousness to lay out before God. After all, who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin?” (Proverbs 20:9). Rather, this person is blessed with “righteousness from the God of his salvation” (Psalm 24:5). If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us (James 4:10). In other words, even the clean hands and pure heart are not made that way by our own strength, but are made so by the strength and grace of God as we resist the devil and draw near to the Lord. Who can ascend the Holy Hill? The one who resists the devil and draws near to the Lord. The one who seeks the face of the God of Jacob. Why the God of Jacob? Because Jacob was the one who sought the Lord’s blessing and simply would not let go no matter how much it hurt and how much it cost him until he got it (see Genesis 32:22-32). In other words, we were wrong in the beginning. Anyone can climb this Holy Hill. That is, anyone who really wants God more than he or she wants anything else. What do you want?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 24.

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Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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On Hills and Towers

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

When we realize everything that exists belongs to the Lord Yahweh, we are suddenly struck by an overwhelming question. Who among us could remotely ascend the hill of the Lord? Yet, isn’t that exactly where all of mankind wants to stand? As far back as Genesis 11, folks have wanted to ascend to the Lord’s domain, to dwell on God’s holy hill. Yet, they didn’t want to stand there as subjects invited into the Lord’s house. They wanted to stand beside Him as equals. They wanted to make a name for themselves. They wanted to build their own holy hill that would rival any belonging to the Lord. What did they learn? The earth belongs to the Lord, not men. So do the heavens. The owner schooled them in new languages and scattered them across the face of His earth. And isn’t this exactly where mankind is today? It seems there are three kinds of people today. The first is busy building his own holy hill, whether it is a completely false religion or a personal version of Christianity. Few of these people are purposefully trying to stand with God as an equal, but in the end the person who follows his own religion is his own god. The second isn’t trying to build a holy hill at all. Rather, this person is trying to level the Lord’s Holy Hill as if destroying that hill will somehow mean he has proven God isn’t there. The third is merely climbing the Lord’s Hill. No doubt, this person makes mistakes, sometimes slides downhill, sometimes gets off the beaten path, but by the grace of God is making his or her way to be with the Lord. The earth is the Lord’s. Its inhabitants are the Lord’s. We only do what He gives us enough rope to do. Let us be careful, lest we get hung on the gallows of our own making. We need to climb the Lord’s Holy Hill on the Lord’s terms and stay there. Nowhere else is worth the climb.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 24.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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The Lord’s Earth

Today’s reading is Psalm 24.

In Hebrew, the first word of Psalm 24 is Yahweh. “Yahweh’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and its inhabitants.” The emphasis is not on the earth or its fullness. It is not on the world and its inhabitants. The emphasis is on the owner: Yahweh. Yahweh owns all that is because He is the one who conquered the chaos and created the cosmos. Moses proved this in Exodus 9:29 when Yahweh was the one who started and stopped the hail, but no Egyptian god could (and that was demonstrated 10 times over). In recognizing this amazing ownership, Moses registered shock that God would settle His steadfast love on one family among mankind in Deuteronomy 10:14-15. David understood that since this was true, when he gave to God, he was only giving to God what was actually His already in 1 Chronicles 29:11-16. Based on this knowledge, Asaph grasped that God did not ask for offerings because of His own needs in Psalm 50:9-13. Because this is true, Paul was able to recognize that idols were nothing and no food actually belongs to an idol in 1 Corinthians 10:25-26. And this makes Yahweh distinct from the ancient gods. Yahweh is not a personal God. He is not a national God. He is not a territorial or regional God. He alone is God. He is not merely God on Zion, He is God everywhere. You cannot make Yahweh your God. He is your God. You can either recognize it now or recognize it later. I can tell you which one would be better. Yahweh is the only God! Hallelujah!

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 24.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes and listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post!

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The Only One Qualified

Today’s reading is Psalm 15.

Well, we’re in a bit of a quandary, aren’t we? Only the blameless get to dwell with the Lord. We water that down a bit so we can pretend we fit. However, we look at Psalm 15 as a mirror, and we can’t even see ourselves in it. Oh, we try hard. Sure, we are better than some people at it. But when the reality settles on us, we know there is really no hope for us. We start to turn away in sadness like that young ruler who had many possessions. We stop to wonder, “But who qualifies? Does anyone?” Yes! One is qualified: Jesus Christ, the righteous, the incarnate Son of God. He fulfilled every bit of this description of God’s welcome guest. He had every right to live on God’s Holy Mountain. And yet, what did He do? He died on God’s Holy Mountain. Every bit of the judgment for not fulfilling Psalm 15 was poured out on the only One who was qualified according to it. Why? To prepare a dwelling place for us (John 14:1-4, 24). The righteous requirement of the Law is that sinners die. Those who are unqualified don’t get to dwell with God. But Jesus, the only qualified one who knew no sin, died a sinner’s death fulfilling the righteous requirement of the Law. Those who die with Christ fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law in Him (Romans 8:4). And through that grace of fulfillment, we are granted access to God’s Tent on His Holy Hill. Again, none of this means we ignore the Psalm 15 qualifications for dwelling with God. Rather, through Jesus’s death and God’s Holy Spirit of grace we meet the qualifications. Yes, we still often fail at these qualifications, but we hang on to Jesus and keep climbing God’s mountain. By God’s strength and grace we will summit the Holy Hill and we will dwell with the Lord. Hallelujah! So my big question for you is not how good you are at being blameless, but have you died with Christ? Do you even know how? If you are interested in learning how, read Romans 6:1-4. Then shoot us a message. We’d love to help you take up your residence on God’s Holy Hill.

Next week’s reading is Psalm 16.

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Why Israel Lost

Today’s reading is Psalm 15.

Have you ever thought through why Israel and Judah were driven out of the land of God’s dwelling? God had promised to dwell in their midst and plant them to dwell in their own place. Yet, they were defeated by Assyria, then Babylon, and ultimately by Rome. Psalm 15 is the answer. Do not consider Psalm 15 as merely a request for who might live on the temple mount. Rather, it is a question about who might sojourn under the protection of the Lord who dwells in the midst of His people in His Tent (tabernacle or temple) on His Holy Mountain. Jeremiah 7 brings this home. Jeremiah stands in the gate of the temple to proclaim the word of the Lord. Notice how “dwell in this place” seems to refer to dwelling in the temple in Jeremiah 7:3, but refers to the Promised Land in Jeremiah 7:7. Folks were trusting in deceptive words, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” Yet they were oppressing orphans, widows, and sojourners. They stole, swore falsely, murdered. Yes, they also committed idolatry. Then they thought they could continue to sojourn under the shadow of God’s Holy Hill. They thought they could continue to find sanctuary in the temple. They thought they could continue to dwell where God had planted them. But, He explained, He would only let them dwell in this place if they changed their behavior. If not, He would destroy His own dwelling place and cast them out of the land. Why were Israel and Judah kicked out of the land? Because only Psalm 15 kind of people can sojourn under God’s protective wing. Israel and Judah were not made up of those kind of people. Psalm 15 is serious business. How have you measured up?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 15.

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Salvation from Zion

Today’s reading is Psalm 14.

Many people struggle with this psalm. They aren’t sure what to make of it. One of the very first things students usually want to do with a psalm is label it. Is it communal or individual, is it lament or praise, is it wisdom or messianic. They struggle with pigeonholing this one. It starts by talking about fools; so some claim it is a wisdom psalm. However, it clearly demonstrates the wickedness of the wicked as they oppress the poor; so others claim it is a lament. But notice how it ends. It ends looking for salvation from Zion. It is not if, but when. The psalmist may have had all kinds of ideas about what that might look like, but we actually know, don’t we? Jesus went to the cross on Mt. Zion. He was buried on Mt. Zion. And He arose on Mt. Zion. Salvation came from Mt. Zion. We can rejoice. We can be glad. Not because we are confident something will happen in the future, but because we know it has already happened. There was actually a great big exception to all that this psalm had said. There was One who was no fool. There was One who never turned to corruption. There was One who never did abominable deeds. There was One who sought after God. He was the righteous. He was the only One righteous in His generation. And the wealthy and powerful tried to shame His plans, but the Lord was His refuge. He committed His Spirit into God’s hands. And He burst forth from the grave on Zion bringing salvation in His wake. Perhaps this psalm is Messianic after all. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Psalm 15.

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