A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on March 29, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Celebrate Jesus!
Psalm 24

Has anyone ever told you you’re acting inappropriately? When I was a kid my parents didn’t use that word. They’d say, “You’re being disrespectful!” Or, “Why don’t you act your age?” It’s one thing when a child is being goofy, because he has more energy than he knows what to do with. But it’s different when a king does things that are embarrassing or undignified. King David wrote Psalm 24 after bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem for the first time. As it was being carried through the city gates, David celebrated with a lot of dancing and jumping around. He did that, because he was excited for the Lord and His promises. Are you as excited about your worship? Has anyone ever said to you, “Calm down, you’re too enthusiastic for God?” If that did happen, would it bother you? Or, would you come right back with, “I can’t help yourself, because of how good God is to me”.

Psalm 24 gave Old Testament believers so much joy, that they sang it every Sunday to start off their week. We need joy to start our week too, especially with everything that’s going on these days. There’s Iran and ISIS and that airline crash. There’s how people treat each other; and all the misery they’re causing. We wonder, when will things ever change? When will they get better? But this week isn’t just any week. This is Holy Week. On Thursday night Jesus would celebrate the Passover with His disciples for the last time and institute Holy Communion. Then He would go to dark Gethsemane and pray three times, “Father, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but your will be done.” After that He would be arrested, tried, beaten and crucified; and on the third day rise again.

Whenever we are feeling sad and frustrated because of what’s going on in the world, there is nothing better we can do than to look to Jesus and all He accomplished on Holy Week. This morning let’s join King David in celebrating Jesus. Psalm 24 gives us three reasons. 1. He owns the whole world. 2. He is served by holy people. 3. He comes in glory.

1. He owns the whole world

We read in our text: The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters. – Psalm 24:1-2 Jesus owns the whole world, because together with the Father He created it and set up all the laws of nature, through which He and the Father are preserving it. This is just kind of an FYI, but David wrote Psalm 24 3000 years ago. Recently scientists discovered that there’s actually more water beneath the earth’s mantle than there is in on the whole surface of the earth. How could King David know that 3000 years ago? David wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Anyway getting back to Psalm 24, the original Hebrew here isn’t emphasizing God’s power. It’s emphasizing His faithful love for us. God created the world and is preserving it out love. And even when He allows earthquakes or bad storms or whatever, this too is out of love to help people in their repentance. So, let’s not get scared or upset by all the dire predictions we keep hearing. God knows a lot more than the “experts”, and He loves us, and He’s in control. Isn’t celebrating that a neat way to start a new week? But Psalm 24 goes on to give us an even bigger reason for being joyful and confident. He is served by holy people.

2. He is served by holy people.

Our text reads: Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. – Psalm 24:3-5 The words in italics are phrases that weren’t included in the Hymnal. Now at first sight these verses might not fill us with a lot of joy and confidence. To have clean hands is a figurative way of saying we never sin. To have a pure heart means we don’t have any sinful attitudes in us, but only perfect love and trust in God, which shines through in perfect love for each other. I’m not describing America, am I. Instead as we look around we see lots of idols. In Hebrew that word means worthless things. Many today are building their lives on worthless things, and then they’ll listen to whatever false doctrine they can find that will justify what they’re doing.

Isn’t it comforting that God will never lower His standards to what people want? If God did that, heaven would be just like earth, only the misery would last forever. But the problem is we don’t have clean hands and a pure heart either. We are sinners too. In fact deep down our own sins and failures may bother us more than anything else. For this reason, let’s celebrate Jesus! He kept God’s standards for us. He had clean hands with no sin on them, even though He was rejected by His own people, and betrayed and denied by His closest friends. Also Jesus had a pure heart. When He was experiencing the fullness of God’s wrath for our sins, He still loved and trusted His Heavenly Father perfectly. He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Because Jesus had clean hands and a pure heart, Psalm 24 tells us that the Father has vindicated us. In the original that means He has declared us righteous or fit for heaven. Again, what a neat way to start a new week! Let’s celebrate that God counts US as having clean hands and pure heart! So, no more being down on our selves, and no more waiting for the other shoe of troubles to drop on our heads! Rather, He is with us even in our darkest hours, and hears our prayers! Furthermore, being vindicated doesn’t make us feel free to keep on sinning. Just the opposite – it makes us want to love as we are loved and to forgive as we are forgiven. The result is we, weak sinners, get to serve Jesus as His holy people. This in itself is a miracle of grace. But what makes this miracle even more amazing is that while living in this sin-darkened world, Jesus is using us to be His light for many others.

And so, we read on in our text: Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob. – Psalm 24:6 God’s love draws people, so that they seek Him; and God does that with each generation. For example some of us were blessed with grandparents or parents who sought the Lord, because the Lord had drawn them to Himself. At times years ago, they may have wondered about us and the direction we were going. But the Lord has drawn us to seek Him too, and now we fear for the generations after us, and well we should! Yet, just like Jacob once prayed, “Lord, I will not let you go until you bless me”, so let’s keep praying in behalf of our children and grandchildren, “Lord, I will not let you go, until you bless them.” In answer to that prayer, may the Lord strengthen us to share His Word with our family and friends, and to be here in worship ourselves! If we keep these things as our highest goal, our lives will make sense. Also our reasons for celebrating Jesus will keep multiplying, until He comes again in glory. But this hope gives us even more reason to celebrate Him!

3. He comes in glory.

We read on: Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. – Psalm 24:7-8 David wrote this Psalm in joyful anticipation of Jesus’ first coming. Perhaps by prophetic vision David even saw the events of Palm Sunday. Now keep in mind Psalm 24 was sung every Sunday morning. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Sunday. Do you think the people on Palm Sunday were making the connection between seeing Jesus riding on a donkey as Zachariah prophesied and having just sung this Psalm? They did make that connection, and that’s why they also sang: Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest! Unfortunately, the people weren’t celebrating their Savior from sin. They were celebrating their hope that their lives here would finally get easier, because they thought Jesus had come to make this world a heaven on earth.

The Jewish leaders also saw the connection between Jesus riding on a donkey and the people singing Psalms. But the Jewish leaders weren’t too celebrating. They believed a person could have clean hands and a pure heart by his own efforts, and that when enough people had clean hands and a pure heart, God could bless their nation. In contrast Jesus taught that the only way a person will be vindicated before God is by trusting in Him. The leaders hated Jesus for that. They were convinced that if people trusting Him for heaven, they wouldn’t try as hard to keep God’s Laws, and then everything would fall apart, including their sources of income and power. Anyway when they saw all the people celebrating Jesus on Palm Sunday, they decided He had to die ASAP.

In other words, by riding into Jerusalem, Jesus Himself started the clock that would count down to His death on Friday. So you see, Jesus was in complete control of the situation. And Jesus was acting in complete love, so that sinners could have clean hands and a pure heart before God. Because the battle He was about to fight wouldn’t be with the Roman army or whatever. His battle would be at the cross. There He would defeat sin by paying for every one, and He would defeat death by dying in everyone’s place and rising again. And this is the victory that’s worth celebrating everyday.

We read on at verse 9 of Psalm 24, which is almost a repeat of verse 8. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. – Psalm 24:9 There’s a reason for this repetition. The King of Glory is coming a second time. But the gates He will enter aren’t the ancient doors of Jerusalem. The gates He wants to enter is the door of our heart. He comes to us through His Word. He lives in our hearts through faith. And it shows that He’s living in our hearts when we rise from our sinning, even as He is risen from the dead, and we make every effort to be as holy as He is. Yet how can this happen? How can we change so that each new week isn’t just more of same old sins? The answer is, let’s celebrate Jesus! Celebrate that He’s in control. Celebrate that He has made us to be His holy people. Celebrate that He is coming again. May God help us to truly celebrate this coming week, because of who Jesus is. He is the Lord Almighty. He is the King of Glory! – Psalm 24:10 Amen.

Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net