Have you started a new job or a vacation recently? Maybe you’ll be traveling again for the first time in a couple of years due to COVID. Do you remember what you do (or are doing) to be ready? We prepare for vacations by considering our travel requirements, where we’ll stay, how long we’ll be at a destination, and then we plan each day, perhaps the night before. Every day, we should also begin as if we have a new spiritual job or journey because our old nature will take over if we don’t, causing us to backtrack instead of moving toward our destination of greater sanctification. If we are preoccupied with ourselves, unfinished plans, or unresolved issues, we will not be ready for whatever opportunities God may present to us. Hopefully, we prepare ourselves for worship on Sundays to receive the blessings that God’s family and presence have for us. But we should also prepare for every other day since his Spirit lives in us, and we are his temple. How do we prepare? We pray praising for God’s character, offering thanksgiving, repenting, and submitting our requests to him. If we eliminate confession and repentance, we will find ourselves unprepared for new challenges God provides for our spiritual growth and resulting blessings. In the Old Testament, Israel sought God’s presence in the tabernacle and then in the temple. When David was troubled, he called on God in the temple, whose Spirit was thought to dwell there. “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalm 18:6) While David didn’t restrict his prayers to his worship in the temple, those prayers were vital to him, and he must have prepared well. David’s prayerfulness exceeded that of his forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but followed their example of submission and (sometimes delayed) repentance.
Blessings and Conditions of Answered Prayer
“God has made many of the gracious benefits He offers us conditional. Blessings like answered prayer, acceptable worship, and the forgiveness of sins are conditional. We know that God could act without our prayers but that He has chosen to work through our prayers. Although He has assured us that His ear is attentive to our prayers, He has also made it clear that there are certain requirements that must be met by praying people, including praying in faith, praying from clean hearts, praying in God’s will, and praying in Jesus’ name. We speak of these as conditions of answered prayer. God has granted the creatures He made the privilege of worshipping Him, but even this worship of God is conditional. We know that if God is big enough to be worshipped, He is big enough to insist on who can worship Him and when, where, and how worship is acceptable. He has laid down requirements such as ‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 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.’ (Psalm 24:3-4)” (1) Let’s take a closer look at Psalm 24 to see how God blesses those who are near him with pure hearts, clean hands, and his righteousness. And in so doing, repent for the purity of our hearts. Our desire for inner cleanliness from lingering sin will lead to good works and receiving God’s blessings through Christ’s righteousness.
God’s Call for Heart Purity
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 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. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” (Psalms 24:3-6) In these few verses, David expresses the desire to worship by ascending the hill of the Lord and standing in his holy place, that is, in the temple. “A soul that knows and considers its own nature, and that it must live for ever, when it has viewed the earth and the fullness thereof, will sit down unsatisfied. It will think of ascending toward God, and will ask, What shall I do, that I may abide in that happy, holy place, where he makes his people holy and happy?” (2) As the New Testament temples of the Holy Spirit, we are not only always in the closest proximity to God but he is working out his holiness in us. Rather than trying to take on the impossible task of cleaning our hands (conduct) and purifying our hearts (to desire God’s will), we rejoice that the Spirit is asserting his power in us. He compels us to confess what is false (the world’s values) and reject the deceitfulness of empty promises and hope in that which is temporal. “We make nothing of religion, if we do not make heart-work of it. We can only be cleansed from our sins, and renewed unto holiness, by the blood of Christ and the washing of the Holy Ghost. Thus we become his people; thus we receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of our salvation. God’s peculiar people shall be made truly and for ever happy.” (3)
David calls the Israelite worshippers “the generation of those who seek…the face of the God of Jacob.” (Psalms 24:6) But we are even more those who seek him because he first sought us through Christ. “By His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus Christ provided the way of atonement for all repenting and believing sinners. He Himself paid their debt in full. But he did not do so to enable them to begin to accumulate another debt of sin. No! This same death, burial, and resurrection of Christ made possible a life free of accumulating sin for every sinner who goes on repenting and believing. To suppose that one can enjoy the benefits of the atonement without living repentantly is a travesty against the mercy of God, and is unthinkable for those who love God with their heart, soul, strength, and mind.” (4) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were ordinary sinners like us, yet also the patriarchs who the Lord called to be the source of blessing for Israel. David knew God to be the salvation of Israel, which is the greatest blessing. “He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.”(24:5-6) Jacob’s God called him to confession in a wrestling match when Jacob wouldn’t let go of the Lord until he received the blessing of forgiveness and reconciliation with God. After being blessed and having repented of his deceitfulness, God renamed him Israel, and he declared, “I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32:30) Having the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have Jacob’s God in us, to help us return to him as Jacob did. We are blessed to know Christ more intimately the more time we spend with him. We have the opportunity to continue our journey with him freshly and energetically every day, realizing that we have wandered away for a time. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8) “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O 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!…The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! SelahLift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Psalms 24:7-10)
Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 10:15-16; 1 Samuel 6:19-20; Numbers 6:23; Psalm 15, 16–19; 26:6; 33:5; Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 1:11–17; 33:15-16; Micah 6:8; John 14:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22-23.
- Roberts, Richard Owen, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 76, Crossway, 2002.
- Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Psalm 24:1-6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/psalm-24.html
- Henry, Ibid.
- Roberts, pp. 77-78, Ibid.
September 30, 2021