This psalm begins with the statement that the Earth, all it contains, and all who dwell in it belong to God (v. 1). God did, after all, create the dry land on which all humanity lives (v. 2).
From this fact of God’s ownership, David turns his eyes upward and wonders who can go up to the place where God dwells and who can stand before God (v. 3). David already knows the answer, as God’s Law gives the criteria of having clean hands and a pure heart (v. 4). But David seems to shift away from ascending to Heaven or standing before God, because he then writes of receiving a blessing and salvation (vv. 5-6). Appropriately, David here inserts the word “Selah”, which invites us to pause and reflect.
The psalm then pivots from people approaching God to God coming down to visit people. The “gates” and “ancient doors” are commanded to lift up their heads and be lifted up in order that the King of Glory may come in (vv. 7, 9). The question is asked, both times, Who is the King of Glory? (vv. 8, 10) and is answered with variations on the LORD each time.
For all that David claimed that the Israelites — called Jacob in this psalm — seek God’s face, he was well aware of how feeble our attempts to approach God really are. It may have been this awareness that took him from wondering who was able to approach God to looking for God to approach people.
And that is where I find application this morning. For all that I would love to be a person who has clean hands and a pure heart and has not sworn falsely, I have sworn falsely and neither my heart nor hands are clean in my sight. I have harmed others in word and action and have promised that which I did not perform. I am, in short, not able to ascend into the hill of the LORD or stand in His holy place. I am unworthy.
But God came down to me. God wrapped Himself in flesh and lived with us and died to put to death my sin and raised Himself to life again that He might show me what He planned to do with me. I was already dead in my sins and He raised me to life. Jesus says, in Revelation 3:20 that He stands at the door and knocks, ready to come in if invited. The gates and doors of my heart and mind must be opened to Christ that He might enter in.
Once Christ has entered in, there is another change that happens. During our songs of worship yesterday, we sang a song with the lyrics “I am who You say I am.” Neither my heart nor my hands are clean in my own sight — I know what I have thought and purposed and done. But I am not judged by how I see me. I am judged by how God sees me. I am who He says I am. And He sees His Son because I am found in Christ.
If someone wandering the internet happens across this, know that the same can be said of you. You may see the filthiness of your hands and heart and know how often you have promised and not followed-through. God wants to cleanse those hands and that heart and to make you faithful. The cleansing can happen as soon as we recognize our guilt and ask God to cleanse us. He will then work with us to give us clean hands and pure hearts and make us faithful. It is not a one-and-done moment, but a day-by-day, moment-by-moment life lived pursuing God. It is simple, but not easy.
We are who God says we are.
Who does God say that I am?
Father, thank You for this psalm and for David’s shifting perspective – from Earth below to Heaven above. Thank You for causing him to see clearly that I might hear from him all these years later. And thank You that my identity is in You; that I am who You say I am.