The Earth Is the Lord's
For those of you…and I do hope that most of you, if not all of you are participating in the daily readings that we are doing as a church… if you are doing those readings Friday was a significant day for us personally as a couple, and as a family. Psalm 22-24 were part of the readings for the day, in the midst of reading 1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel. And Psalm 24 hit on something that I just could not let go. And so, turn with me to Psalm 24.
A Psalm of David. 1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah
My desire is to share with you some reflections on Psalm 24, which is a beautiful hymn of praise to God. This psalm is full of rich imagery. But not just that… it is also full of deep theological significance, and it speaks to us in a powerful way about the nature of God, the character of those who seek Him, and the blessings that come to those who follow Him.
A couple of months ago I preached this Psalm, but my focus was on the last verses which extol the Lord as Lord Sabaoth… the Lord of Hosts. So, I am not going to spend time there this morning. I am going to concentrate on the first half of the Psalm.
Psalm 24 begins with a declaration of God's sovereignty over the entire world:
1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.
Did you hear that? Whose earth? [The LORD’s] The text says, “L_O_R_D”. That is the translator’s way of letting you know what name of God is used in the Hebrew. L_O_R_D stand for YHWH… The Self-Existent One, the “I AM”. The One the Jews refer to as Jehovah. This world is HIS!!! And not only that… but everything in it… and all who dwell on the earth!!!
I have heard Christians lament that this world belongs to Satan and things just keep getting worse and worse. But I am here to tell you that that is a lie!!! This world no more belongs to Satan than you belong to me.
Now, albeit, the Bible does teach that Satan is a powerful spiritual being who opposes God and seeks to lead people away from Him. But mind you, NO WHERE does it say that the world is under Satan's authority.
In fact, right here in these first two verses, we can witness that the Bible teaches that God is the authority over all things, including the world.
And very similarly, lest we forget, Paul tells us in Colossians 1:16… and this speaking of Christ…
16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Church, we must understand that Satan is not an inverse of God. Satan is not the opposite of God. In fact, he is Christ’s subordinate!! Look at what Paul says? “For by him ALL things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities(this is where Satan fits in) —all things were created through him and for him.”
Christ, the second person of the Triune God, the Creator of all things… MADE SATAN!!! Satan is Christ’s rebellious creation, not an equal!!
Now, I admit, it is true that Satan has some power and influence in the world, but we must remember that he is ultimately subject to God's authority. In the book of Job, if you remember, Satan had to ask permission from God before he could bring trials into Job's life. And in the New Testament, Jesus has authority over Satan and his demons, as he demonstrated numerous times when dealing with people suffering from demonic possession.
And so he is in authority. Which reminds me of something else that weighed heavy on my heart this week. This qualifies as a “rabbit trail” all though I hope you will see the thread of this Psalm through it all.
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives a mandate to the church (through his disciples) that I believe is a continuance of the mandate that God gave Adam and Eve in the garden. A mandate that we have had a disobedient struggle keeping from the garden on. First, let’s quickly look at the mandate as given by Christ. Turn to Matthew 28:16-20...
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now, the mandate is this... Because all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me (Christ) Go and make disciples of ALL the Nations (that is evangelize everyone this is a mandate of dominion and global influence)… baptize them and teach them to obey all that He has commanded. Now primarily, the way this passage has been taken is a call for global missions… that we are to leave where we’re living and go to a country foreign to us and evangelize. Now, what I am not saying is that that is wrong. But I think we place too much emphasis on the going and not enough on the evangelizing those around us.
I want us to consider this… Who is Jesus talking to in this passage? The 11 disciples. And where are they? In Galilee, on a mountain, we don’t no which mountain, but Jesus had told them to go there… and now Jesus says… Ok, guys… here’s the plan… here is what I want you to do. This is the after action plan and Jesus says, Go… because I’m in power here… and in your going make disciples. Baptize those respond in faith, and then teach them to obey my commandments.
Let me ask you this. Did the disciples obey? Did they go? Yes. Did they go far? No. Did they evangelize? Yes. Did they evangelize a lot? Yes. Did they baptize and teach? Yes, we learn that in Acts. But they didn’t go far. God caused them to disperse with the Roman persecution… and… travel through time… here we are today.
So the mandate has been obeyed, Christianity is global… and according to Jesus… this can all happen and will happen because “ALL AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO ME.”
This world is his, and the knowledge of him has spread over the world. In fact, the growth of Christianity is now growing exponentially in other countries. The only place its not growing is in “civilized” countries like ours. Here’s the deal… according to Jesus, who has been given all authority in heaven and in earth, we are commanded to evangelize. And he has given us an easy audience in which to ply our trade first and easiest. It is our homes… our children and our grandchildren and in some cases, our great grandchildren. This is where I see God’s first mandate, called the cultural mandate, tie together with Christ’s mandate to his church.
The cultural mandate shows up first in Genesis 1:28...
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth...”
Here’s where I want to stop and I want to issue a disclaimer. I have absolutely no intention of being hurtful or offensive… but when you hear what I have to say, some of you are going to feel hurt and some of you are going to feel offended, and some of you are going to feel hurt and offended. Please, please, please, please hear me… I want to give you God’s Word. I want you to take notice of his creation and his design, and his commands… and I want you to take them seriously… obediently!!!
True, sin messed with our ability to fulfill this mandate. But sin did not cancel this mandate. And this mandate has not been replaced… it is still in effect today, and God expects his people to obey him.
I know without a doubt that sin did not cancel the mandate, only made it more difficult, because God repeats himself to Noah, after the flood. Genesis 9:7...
7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
I said, when considering Jesus’ command to make disciples, that Christianity has spread over the whole world (yes there are still un-reached people groups, and they need to be reached with the Gospel), and that we are still called to make disciples, that we often miss the opportunities right in front of us. And I’m not talking about our neighbors, or our co-workers. I am talking about our children… grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Rate of children leaving the church - 88%
My own experience here in this body of believers.
Church… no where in God’s Word does it say that we only have to obey as long as it is convenient and enjoyable!!!
Let us understand that this world is ours by association… because we belong to the One who holds all authority. Let’s work at being obedient.
And that was just the first two verses of this Psalm. So, let’s move on.
The psalm then asks the question,
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?
This is a crucial question, because it invites us to consider what it means to be in God's presence and to have a relationship with Him. The answer to this question is given in the following verses:
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
In other words, the psalmist is telling us that in order to be in God's presence, we must be people of integrity and faithfulness. Actually, we know that fellowship with God in his holiness ultimately requires perfection, which we receive through the mediation of Christ the final high priest (Heb. 10:19–22). The writer to the Hebrews makes this clear…
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
So, positionally, because of Christ’s work on the cross, those who by faith have come to him can some into the “Holy of Holies”… into the presence of God. It is Christ that makes us, positionally holy. This is what Paul says in Ephesians 1:4…
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
But even with the covering of the blood of Christ we are still called to be committed to living lives that are pleasing to God. And this is not just an OT idea (called for 15 times in Leviticus alone) but Peter makes it very clear…
but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Did you get that? Peter is talking to believers; folks who are positionally holy and righteous before God… and Peter tells them to emulate God… you also… which means, because God is holy in all His conduct you also be holy in all… how much?
So, holy living is not just an OT, pre-Christ command.
Let’s continue with Psalm 24. David goes on…
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.
“…who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”
The phrase “does not lift up his soul” is a Hebrew idiom for “placing one’s trust in someone or something.” And does not swear deceitfully. The Psalmist is saying that it is those who come to God, whose god is the Lord, that will be able to dwell in this presence. Meaning we must reject any false gods or idols that might distract us from Him.
I think that sometimes we are not cognizant of our “lifting up our soul” to things other than God. But, if we are honest… we probably do this more often that we are aware of or willing to admit. What can be an idol?
Food, alcohol, stuff, our belongings, our children, our property, our job, relationships, money, significance, success, grandchildren, music, internet “doom” scrolling, “me” time, the things that “make me happy”, solitude, friends, political leanings, political candidates, influence over others, love (or at least the feeling of being loved, regardless of where it comes from)
Church, we need to be aware of our proclivity for lifting up our soul to what is false And fight against it!!!
The current Chrisitian fad of “I love Jesus and cuss a little.” is a movement from the pit of hell to make Christians anemic, weak, and worldly. And nowhere in the Scripture are we, as God adopted sons, are we encouraged to emulate the world, to look like the world so that we blend in well. In fact just the opposite is true.
Paul encourages believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling… being faithful to the Word of God…
15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
We are to be a light to the world. Light is visible, light shines on everything around, and light is not loved by darkness. In fact, Jesus calls us to be light, not camouflage ourselves with darkness.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
In fact, it was light that Jesus was bringing into the world…
9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
And that light brings with it judgement. John tells us this in the chapter we’re working through currently in his gospel…
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
And so church, we should absolutely distance ourselves from anything that would cause us to look like the darkness that is the world, and do everything that we can to look like Christ.
And lastly, David tells us of the blessings that belong to those who live their lives this way.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
Church, let us be that generation. A generation who seeks Him!!! Amen and amen!
The phrase "seek your face" is very interesting… it gives us a powerful image that speaks to the deep longing that we should all have for God. It reminds us that our hearts were created to be in relationship with Him, and that we will never find true fulfillment or satisfaction until we find Him.
I want to spend just a few moments wrapping up this Psalm in it’s entirety. In the last four verses we see a shift to a more dramatic tone as it describes the entrance of the King of Glory into the holy place.
7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!
The psalmist asks, "Who is this King of Glory?" (Psalm 24:8), and then answers the question with the triumphant declaration, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle" (Psalm 24:8). This image of God as a mighty warrior who is victorious in battle is a reminder that God is not just a distant and abstract concept, but a living and active force in the world who is constantly at work on our behalf.
Finally, the psalm concludes with a call to worship and praise:
9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah
This is a powerful invitation to all of us to open our hearts and minds to God, and to worship Him with all that we are. It is a reminder that worship is not just a private experience, but a communal one, and that we are called to come together as a community of believers to worship and praise the God who created us and loves us.