MITRA: Analyzing objective holiness from Psalm 24
In Psalm 23, King David describes the Lord as a shepherd.
But in Psalm 24, he exalts Him as the King of Glory.
The famous preacher of yesteryears, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, analyzed this psalm as:
Vs. 1,2: Glorifying the true God in His universal dominion.
Vs. 3-6: Description of the true Israel who are able to commune with Him.
Vs. 7-10: Ascent of the Redeemer who opens the gates of heaven to all believers.
The first and third sections are what theologians call objective truths — truths that take our thoughts away from ourselves, lifting them up to God.
Objective truth is necessary and may be pleasant but, wedged between these two statements are the solemn verses which describe the true Israel.
It is easy to forget the second part of the Psalm in dwelling on the first and the third.
Our souls delight in the great doctrines of God: The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains.
Our souls find great delight in considering the ascended Christ but, between the two, there are solemn questions concerning the true Israel.
Not all Israel is true Israel, as not all professing Christians are true Christians.
David wrote in v.3: Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?
In v.4, he answers his own question: He who has clean hands and a pure heart.
Clean hands is the Biblical way of speaking of righteous conduct, for our hands represent what we do and what we hold.
For those with clean hands, the work is faithful, the business is honest and the pay is honourable.
Clean hands handle clean books, not unclean novels, keep exact accounts, return borrowed things.
The hand is the symbol of work, of earning, of paying and of giving.
This challenges everyone.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of his unclean lips and of dwelling in the midst of people with unclean lips.
We may well pray to be delivered from unclean hands, dwelling the midst of people with unclean hands.
Never was there such theft and graft as there is today and we need to pray to be delivered from it.
The apostle James wrote in the New Testament: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8).
This is something we must do for ourselves.
It is not a thing to only pray about; if there is a debt to be paid, then we have to cleanse our hands by paying it.
If a cheque ought to be sent to income-tax authorities, it is not a matter for prayer but for cleansing our hands by sending it.
If a tool or a book has been borrowed and ought to have been returned, it is not a matter for prayer but of returning these.
And, if a letter of apology needs to be written, the only way to cleanse the hands is to write the letter.
Spurgeon says of this Psalm: What monarch would have servants with filthy hands at his table?
God’s Word comes home to us that our hands are stained somehow with some sin.
A pure heart — it means we have no controversy with God.
It means we give a hearty response to His word and in the light that we are set to obey Him at whatever cost.
The pure heart is not consciously adulterated with selfish intentions.
It is not that a man with a pure heart never sins, but he never wants to sin, he loathes sin, he condemns sin and he shrinks from sin.
There is, in some quarters, an attempt to escape from the claims of real holiness by pressing for an almost exclusive preaching of objective truth.
I would be the last to say we should always be conducting post-mortems on our spiritual life.
But, if this pressure for objective truth — truth about God outside ourselves means we are never to examine ourselves reverently and thoroughly, we can only reply to such brethren that their position is unscriptural.
The Bible calls believers to the most thorough-going searching of themselves in God’s presence.
The effectiveness of his ministry is continually growing.
Choruses for revival should be sung softly and those who pray for revival should pray gently.
He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.
Narayan Mitra is a chaplain at Thompson Rivers University.