WHO IS THIS KING OF GLORY?
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You may or may not know I’m a big Elvis fan. The King of Rock and Roll. One night at a show Elvis saw a sign calling him “The King.” He stopped for a few moments and told the audience that there’s only King, and that’s Christ. Psalm 24 is all about God’s kingship. What does it mean to call God King? What should it look like for those who call Jesus Lord? What does it mean for the King of Glory to enter in? Let us look at this 24th Psalm and see what God may have to say to our hearts.
We’re coming to the end of our summertime look at the Psalms. Seeing what they have to say to us, how they might affect our prayer life and our worship together. This morning’s psalm speaks to the foundation of our faith. God is King. Rejoice the Lord is King, as we sang earlier. This is how the psalmist starts – “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,” Everything has been made by God. No matter how you interpret the creation story in terms of timelines, this is something upon which all followers of Christ agree. God made everything. Take a walk outside and every single thing you look at is God’s creation. Not only did God make it but God upholds it – God keeps everything going. All that is in the world includes people – “and those who live in it.”
If we stopped to think about this meaningfully and often, do you think it would make a difference in how we saw things? Do you think it would make a difference in how we viewed nature and natural resources? Would we consider the primary owners of natural resources to be nation states? Corporations? Individuals? Would it make a difference in how we viewed our own role as believers that God made all things and called them good? That in Christ, God maintains and sustains all things and that in Christ all things hold together?
It’s a fundamental part of our world view – of how we view the world. Like any belief it’s not meant to exist in a vacuum. It’s not meant for us to believe something like “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it… and all who live in it” and it not affect how we view things and the actions that we take.
“For he has established it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.” I’ve spoken before about this OT image of God as subduer of chaos in creation. The sea was thought to be a place of chaos and disorder to the ancient Israelites. In naming God as creator we are asserting that it is in God that order is to be found. That well-ordered existence is to be found. That peace is to be found.
You might be saying “I’m with you so far, but what does this mean in terms of how we’re supposed to live our lives?” Faith doesn’t indeed exist in a vacuum. What does it mean to our lives? What should our lives look like if we believe that God is King and that Jesus is Lord and it’s not simply something we put on our cars or our t-shirts or walls or wherever we proclaim this?
Seek his presence. Seek God’s presence. God is the ultimate seeker it’s true. He’s always pursuing us like the “Hound of Heaven” in Francis Thompson’s poem. Seek his presence. Seek his face. Listen to your heart. My heart says “Seek his face”. Your face O Lord do I seek. Make that your prayer. “Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” The psalmist is singing of the Temple of Jerusalem. The place where God was present. The place where God is present is holy. What does it mean that God is holy? I read this a few weeks ago - God’s holiness is “all that contrasts with and transcends the human, the marvelous, the mysterious, the incomprehensible. In holiness the Lord is incomparable.” Who could stand in such a place?
“Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to another, and do not swear deceitfully.” Easy right? Who can say this? Anyone meet this list of qualifications? Of course we don’t. It’s a bit of a trick question, because this is not a list of qualifications that you must fulfill before you seek and know God’s presence. The only qualification you need to seek and know God’s presence is a knowledge of your need for Him. The only qualification you need to seek and to know God’s presence is to acknowledge that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it and those who live in it and that we need him and that in him is life and light. We don’t come before God based on any righteousness of our own. We don’t come before God based on any cleverness or intelligence of our own. Calling on Jesus as Lord means recognizing our need to be made into someone new. It means recognizing that this doesn’t happen without God. It means seeking and knowing God’s presence in order that we might be made righteous – made right, made whole, made well. One writer puts it like this – “The righteous one seeks the righteousness of God by seeking God’s own presence in the midst of the worshipping community.”
So what’s the answer to “Who could do this?” or “Who is sufficient for these things?” That was the question Paul put to the Corinthians. The one who seeks God’s face and cries out “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” That’s our only qualification. It doesn’t mean that we wallow in our sin. It doesn’t mean that God’s grace is simply an excuse to intentionally miss the mark or come up short. This song reminds the worshipper that making us clean, purifying our hearts, keeping us from lifting up our souls to false gods or swearing deceitfully by God (making a show of worship as an outward sign and not meaning any of it – going to church each Sunday with a Bible tucked under our arm and bowing down to the gods of nationalism or consumerism or cupidity or greed or envy or self-sufficiency or any of the gods that we bow down to) – this is what God does. God changes us when we seek His face. This is the promise. “They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation.”
This is what it means to seek the presence of our King friends. God is making us right when we seek his presence. How’s that seeking going for you? I’ve known it to be going really well. I’ve known it to be going really badly. I’d like to talk about that with you anytime. So would Pastor Abby. We seek his face together, of course. We’re not playing. This is not something you play with, the presence of God. The promise is right there. They will receive blessings from the Lord – the blessing of being made right, of being made anew. Don’t we need that? One writer talks about God’s purposes for us being worked out as we seek his face – “It is not a text for some sort of judicial procedure to exclude the unqualified; rather it is the rehearsal of a purpose and a possibility. This kind of person…is what the Presence intends. This Presence, says the psalm, is the power that makes this kind of person possible. The Presence calls and commands, judges and redeems. To be in the Place of the presence means to be at the point where the purpose and power of God come to bear on a person’s identity and formation.”
Do you want that? We serve a King who is holy. What does this look like? There’s a wonderful description in Psalm 89 – “The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours… You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” Do you want to serve this God? Do you want to follow this God? Do you want to seek this God’s face? Let us seek His face together, because such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
The Psalm ends with worship. “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the king of glory may come in!” It was thought that this psalm was sung when the Ark of the Covenant was brought to the temple. This title for God “the king of glory” was associated with the Ark, which was the visible sign of God’s presence among his people. You can imagine a group of people returning after a battle, coming to the city gate. The watchers there have their heads bowed – hangdog expressions. They wonder how things turned out. The cry is heard “Lift up your heads, O gates!” not directed at the gates but at the people there. Be lifted up O ancient doors that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory? Good question. The Lord, strong and might, the Lord mighty in battle. What does he look like? A little baby crying out in the night. A man stretched out on a cross. The Spirit who was sent and is sent to his followers to literally inspire us – to give us life. This is the King of Glory! Lift up your heads and welcome him. This is the invitation. Lift up your heads and welcome him so that we may be lifted up – that we may be transformed into his image. That we may be made righteous, made right, made whole. Lift up your heads O gates!
There’s a great paradox in this of course. The ancient Israelites were aware of one too. How could the creator and sustainer of all things also live in a temple? What temple could contain him? It’s the same thing for us. Of course something has changed. We’re now the temple. We’re the dwelling place of this King. Do we take that seriously? We need to take that seriously if we’re going to profess Christ as King. We need reminding of this of course we do. The church in Corinth did. Paul wrote to them “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” Therefore seek God’s face so that God’s ways - love, mercy, grace, justice – may be known in and through you.
God’s transcendence and God’s immanence. The creator and sustainer of the universe living within us. I can’t explain it. I don’t think we have to. There’s nothing wrong with a little paradox. SK put it like this “One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical…for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.” We wouldn’t want to follow a god we could fit into some non-paradoxical box would we? Maybe we would. Some do I suppose. This is not the King we serve though friends. The King we serve is the creator and sustainer of all who makes his home within us if we but lift up our heads and cry out “Have mercy on me, change me, make me like you to show your glory.”
Elvis was famous for transforming music. Instrumental in the creation of something new – rock and roll. He became known as its king. He knew there was a greater King. One who is also about creation and transformation. One who is all about making something new. He makes something new of us. One day we’ll hear him say “Look, I am making all things new.”
This is the King that we serve my friends.