PSALM 24 OVERVIEW
Title. A Psalm of David. From the title we learn nothing but the authorship: but this is interesting and leads us to observe the wondrous operations of the Spirit upon the mind of Israel's sweet singer, enabling him to touch the mournful string in Psalm twenty-two, to pour forth gentle notes of peace in Psalm twenty-three, and here to utter majestic and triumphant strains. We can do or sing all things when the Lord strengtheneth us.
This sacred hymn was probably written to be sung when the ark of the covenant was taken up from the house of Obededom, to remain within curtains upon the hill of Zion. The words are not unsuitable for the sacred dance of joy in which David led the way upon that joyful occasion. The eye of the psalmist looked, however, beyond the typical up going of the ark to the sublime ascension of the King of glory. We will call it The Song of the Ascension.
Division. The Psalm makes a pair with the Psalms 15:1-5 . It consists of three parts. The first glorifies the true God, and sings of his universal dominion; the second describes the true Israel, who are able to commune with him; and the third pictures the ascent of the true Redeemer, who has opened heaven's gates for the entrance of his elect.
Verse 1. How very different is this from the ignorant Jewish notion of God which prevailed in our Saviour's day? The Jews said, "The holy land is God's, and the seed of Abraham are his only people;" but their great Monarch had long before instructed them, --
The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. The whole round world is claimed for Jehovah, and they that dwell therein are declared to be his subjects. When we consider the bigotry of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, and how angry they were with our Lord for saying that many widows were in Israel, but unto none of them was the prophet sent, save only to the widow of Sarepta, and that there were many lepers in Israel, but none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian, -- when we recollect, too, how angry they were at the mention of Paul's being sent to the Gentiles, we are amazed that they should have remained in such blindness, and yet have sung this psalm, which shows so clearly that God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. What a rebuke is this to those wiseacres who speak of the negro and other despised races as though they were not cared for by the God of heaven! If a man be but a man the Lord claims him, and who dares to brand him as a mere piece of merchandise! The meanest of men is a dweller in the world, and therefore belongs to Jehovah. Jesus Christ had made an end of the exclusiveness of nationalities. There is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond not free; but we all are one in Christ Jesus. Man lives upon the earth, and parcels out its soil among his mimic kings and autocrats; but the earth is not man's. He is but a tenant at will, a leaseholder upon the most precarious tenure, liable to instantaneous ejectment. The great Landowner and true Proprietor holds his court above the clouds, and laughs at the title deeds of worms of the dust. The fee simple is not with the lord of the manor nor the freeholder, but with the Creator. The fulness of the earth may mean its harvests, its wealth, its life, or its worship; in all these senses the Most High God is Possessor of all. The earth is full of God; he made it full and he keeps it full, notwithstanding all the demands which living creatures make upon its stores. The sea is full, despite all the clouds which rise from it; the air is full, notwithstanding all the lives which breathe it; the soil is full, though millions of plants derive their nourishment from it. Under man's tutored hand the world is coming to a greater fulness than ever, but it is all the Lord's; the field and the fruit, the earth and all earth's wonders are Jehovah's. We look also for a more sublime fulness when the true ideal of a world for God shall have been reached in millennial glories, and then most clearly the earth will be the Lord's and the fulness thereof. These words are now upon London's Royal Exchange, they shall one day be written in letters of light across the sky. The term world indicates the habitable regions, wherein Jehovah is especially to be acknowledged as Sovereign. He who rules the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air should not be disobeyed by man, his noblest creature. Jehovah is the Universal King, all nations are beneath his sway: true Autocrat of all the nations, emperors and czars are but his slaves. Men are not their own, nor may they call their lips, their hearts, or their substance their own; they are Jehovah's rightful servants. This claim especially applies to us who are born from heaven. We do not belong to the world or to Satan, but by creation and redemption we are the peculiar portion of the Lord. Paul uses this verse twice, to show that no food is unclean, and that nothing is really the property of false gods. All things are God's; no ban is on the face of nature, nothing is common or unclean. The world is all God's world, and the food which is sold in the shambles is sanctified by being my Father's, and I need not scruple to eat thereof.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. It will be seen that this Psalm was written to be chanted in responsive parts, with two choruses. To comprehend it fully, it should be understood that Jerusalem, as the city of God, was by the Jews regarded as a type of heaven. It so occurs in the Apocalypse, whence we have adopted it in our poetical and devotional aspirations. The court of the tabernacle was the scene of the Lord's more immediate residence -- the tabernacle his palace, and the ark his throne. With this leading idea in his mind, the most cursory reader -- if there be cursory readers of the Bible -- cannot fail to be struck with the beauty and sublimity of this composition, and its exquisite suitableness to the occasion. The chief musician, who was probably in this case the king himself, appears to have begun the sacred lay with a solemn and sonorous recital of these sentences: --
"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; The world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas, And established it upon the floods."
The chorus of vocal music appears to have then taken up the song, and sung the same words in a more tuneful and elaborate harmony; and the instruments and the whole chorus of the people fell in with them, raising the mighty declaration to heaven. There is much reason to think that the people, or a large body of them, were qualified or instructed to take their part in this great ceremonial. The historical text says, "David, and all the house of Israel played before the Lord, upon all manner of instruments," etc. We may presume that the chorus then divided, each singing in their turns, and both joining at the close --
"For he hath founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods."
This part of the music may be supposed to have lasted until the procession reached the foot of Zion, or came in view of it, which from the nature of the enclosed site, cannot be till one comes quite near to it. Then the king must be supposed to have stepped forth, and begun again, in a solemn and earnest tone --
"Who shall ascend into the holy hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place?"
To which the first chorus responds --
"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity,
nor sworn deceitfully."
And then the second chorus --
"He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, And righteousness from the God of his salvation."
This part of the sacred song may, in like manner, be supposed to have lasted till they reached the gate of the city, when the king began again in this grand and exalted strain: --
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors,
And the King of glory shall come in."
repeated then, in the same way as before, by the general chorus. The persons having charge of the gates on this high occasion ask --
"Who is the King of glory?"
To which the first chorus answers --
"It is Jehovah, strong and mighty -- Jehovah mighty in battle."
which the second chorus then repeats in like manner as before, closing it with the grand universal chorus,
"He is the King of glory! He is the King of glory!"
We must now suppose the instruments to take up the same notes, and continue them to the entrance to the court of the tabernacle. There the king again begins --
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; And the King of glory shall come in."
This is followed and answered as before -- all closing, the instruments sounding, the chorus singing, the people shouting --
"He is the King of glory."
John Kitto's "Daily Bible Illustrations."
Whole Psalm. The coming of the Lord of glory, the high demands upon his people proceeding from this, the absolute necessity to prepare worthily for his arrival, form the subject matter of this Psalm. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Whole Psalm. We learn from the rabbins, that this was one of certain Psalms which were sung in the performance of Jewish worship on each day in the week: --
The 24th Psalm on the 1st, the Lord's day, our Sunday. 48th " 2nd " 82nd " 3rd " 94th " 4th " 81st " 5th " 93rd " 6th " 92nd " 7th, the Jewish Sabbath.
This Psalm, then, appropriated to the Lord's day, our Sunday, was intended to celebrate the resurrection of Messiah, and his ascension into heaven, there to sit as priest upon God's throne, and from thence to come down bringing blessings and mercies to his people. R. H. Ryland.
Whole Psalm. Anthem of praise, performed when the heads of the gates of Jerusalem were lifted up to receive the ark; and those of the Israelites who were ceremoniously clean, were alone permitted to accompany it into the court of the tabernacle. A Psalm of David. Psalms 24:1-2 , chorus. Psalms 24:3 . First voice. Psalms 24:4-5 . Second voice. Psalms 24:6 . Chorus. Psalms 24:7 . Semi chorus accompanying the ark. Psalms 24:8 . Voice from within the gates. Ps 24:8. Chorus of priests accompanying the ark. Psalms 24:9 . Chorus of priests and people with the ark. Psalms 24:10 . Voice within the gates. Psalms 24:10 . Grand chorus. From "The Psalms, with Prefatory Titles, etc., from the Port Royal Authors", by Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, 1825.
Whole Psalm. How others may think upon this point, I cannot say, nor pretend to describe, but for my own part, I have no notion of hearing, or of any man's ever having seen or heard, anything so great, so solemn, so celestial, on this side the gates of heaven. Patrick Delany, D.D., 1686-1768.
Verse 1. The earth is the Lord's, that is, Christ's, who is the "Lord of lords" ( Revelation 19:16 ); for the whole world and all the things therein are his by a twofold title. First, by donation of God his Father, having "all power given unto him in heaven and in earth" ( Matthew 28:18 ), even whatsoever things the Father hath are his ( John 16:15 ); and so consequently "made heir of all things." Hebrews 1:2 . Secondly, the earth is Christ's and all that therein is, by right of creation, for "he founded it", saith our prophet, and that after a wonderful manner, "upon the seas and floods."... All things then are Christ's, in respect of creation, by whom "all things were made" ( John 1:3 ); in respect of sustentation, as upholding all things by his mighty word ( Hebrews 1:3 ); in respect of administration, as reaching from one end to another, and ordering all things sweetly ( 8:1 ): in one word -- "Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." Romans 11:36 . From hence we may learn (1), That Christ is "the King of glory", "Lord of Hosts," even Almighty God. For he that made all, is "Lord over all;" he that is the Creator of heaven and earth is Almighty (saith our Creed); able to do whatsoever he will, and more than he will too -- more by his absolute power, than he will by his actual -- "able to raise up children unto Abraham" out of the very stones of the street, though he doth not actually produce such a generation. His almightiness evidently proves him to be God, and his founding of the world his almightiness; for "The gods that have not made the heaven and earth shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens." Jeremiah 10:11 . (2.) Seeing the compass of the world and all they that dwell therein are the Lord's, it is plain that the church is not confined within the limits of one region, or glued, as it were, to one seat only. The Donatists in old time, would tie the church only to Cartenna in Africa, the Papists in our time to Rome in Italy; but the Scriptures plainly affirm that the golden candlesticks are removed from one place to another, and that the kingdom of God is taken away from one nation and given unto another country that brings forth the fruit thereof; in every region he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him. Acts 10:35 . John Boys.
Verse 1. The earth is Jehovah's. The object of the beginning of the Psalm is to show that the Jews had nothing of themselves which could entitle them to approach nearer or more familiarly to God than the Gentiles. As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all, even as he also shows to all men, without exception, the fatherly care he has about them. J. Calvin.
Verse 1. The earth is the Lord's. It is Christ's, by creation ( Psalms 24:2 John 1:1-2 ), and it is his by resurrection ( Matthew 28:18 ), and by his glorious ascension into heaven, where he is enthroned King of the world in his human nature. This Psalm takes up the language of the first Ascension Psalm ( Psalms 24:8 .) Christopher Wordsworth, D.D., in loc.
Verse 1. St. Chrysostom, suffering under the Empress Eudoxia, tells his friend Cyriacus how he armed himself before hand: ei me bouletai n basilissa e xorisai me, etc. "I thought, will she banish me? `The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof.' Take away my goods? `Naked came I into the world, and naked must I return.' Will she stone me? I remembered Stephen. Behead me? John Baptist came into my mind," etc. Thus it should be with every one that intends to live and die comfortably: they must, as we say, lay up something for a rainy day; they must stock themselves with graces, store up promises, and furnish themselves with experiences of God's lovingkindness to others and themselves too, that so when the evil day comes, they may have much good coming thereby. John Spencer.
Verse 1. The earth is the Lord's. As David, in his youthful days, was tending his flocks on Bethlehem's fertile plains, the spirit of the Lord descended upon him, and his senses were opened, and his understanding enlightened, so that he could understand the songs of the night. The heavens proclaimed the glory of God, and glittering stars formed the general chorus, their harmonious melody resounded upon earth, and the sweet fulness of their voices vibrated to it utmost bounds.
Light is the countenance of the Eternal, sung the setting sun: "I am the hem of his garment," responded the soft and rosy twilight. The clouds gathered themselves together and said, "We are his nocturnal tent." And the waters in the clouds, and the hollow voices of the thunders, joined in the lofty chorus, "The voice of the Eternal is upon the waters, the God of glory thundereth in the heavens, the Lord is upon many waters."
"He flieth upon my wings", whispered the winds, and the gentle air added, "I am the breath of God, the aspirations of his benign presence." "We hear the songs of praise," said the parched earth; "all around is praise; I alone am sad and silent." Then the falling dew replied, "I will nourish thee, so that thou shalt be refreshed and rejoice, and thy infants shall bloom like the young rose." "Joyfully we bloom", sang the refreshed meads; the full ears of corn waved as they sang, "We are the blessing of God, the hosts of God against famine."
"We bless thee from above", said the gentle moon; "We, too, bless thee," responded the stars; and the lightsome grasshopper chirped, "Me, too, he blesses in the pearly dew drop." "He quenched my thirst", said the roe; "And refreshed me," continued the stag; "And grants us our food", said the beasts of the forest; "And clothes my lambs", gratefully added the sheep.
"He heard me", croaked the raven, "when I was forsaken and alone;" "He heard me", said the wild goat of the rocks, "when my time came, and I brought forth." And the turtle dove cooed, and the swallow and other birds joined the song, "We have found our nests, our houses, we dwell upon the altar of the Lord, and sleep under the shadow of his wing in tranquillity and peace." "And peace", replied the night, and echo prolonged the sound, when chanticleer awoke the dawn, and crowed with joy, "Open the portals, set wide the gates of the world! The King of glory approaches. Awake! Arise, ye sons of men, give praises and thanks unto the Lord, for the King of glory approaches."
The sun arose, and David awoke from his melodious rapture. But as long as he lived the strains of creation's harmony remained in his soul, and daily he recalled them from the strings of his harp. From the "Legend of the Songs of the Night," in the Talmud, quoted in "Biblical Antiquities." By F. A. Cox, D.D., L.L.D., 1852.
Verse 1. The pious mind views all things in God,, and God in all things. Ingram Cobbin, 1839.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The great Proprietor, his estates and his servants, his rights and wrongs.
Verse 1. The earth is the Lord's.
Verse 1. (last clause). All men belong to God. His sons or his subjects, his servants or his serfs, his sheep or his goats, etc.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE TWENTY-FOURTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
In the "Works" of John Boys, 1626, folio, pp. 908-913, there is an Exposition of this Psalm.