Let’s move on to the second section of Psalm 24. The psalmist says,
3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?Psalm 24.3-4
Or who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
Although we have significance in these lines, there is a problem. The problem is that God is Holy and that we are not. Therefore, the question is asked here: ‘how can we ascend into the hill of the Lord?’ How can we come into a relationship with God? How can we who are unclean become clean in the eyes of the Lord?
Though the earth is the Lord’s and humans are created as God’s special creation with the purpose of looking after the earth which God also created, we know we are now, by nature, separated from God and in a fallen state, bound by sin. The scriptures tell us this.
Both the Old and the New Testament say so. Here, in Isaiah chapter 59, it says:
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened,Isaiah 59.1-3
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood,
And your fingers with iniquity;
Your lips have spoken lies,
Your tongue has muttered perversity.
In that state you can’t come into the presence of the holy God. And even if you haven’t committed all those sins, none of us is righteous because as it says in Romans,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,Romans 3:23
Therefore, the scriptures tell us that each one of us has a problem. And it is not just the scriptures but history that tells us this. As we look around in our world today, we can see this, we can see that there exists a huge barrier between God and humanity. And this barrier is just present in the New Testament, it is also in the Old Testament. It is something which tells us that there is not a just man on the earth who does good and does not sin.
So, if that’s the result, then there is no one who can enter into God’s holy place. Al of which is bad news isn’t it?
Who has a clean hands and a pure heart? Who can stand in God’s holy place? The answer is ‘no one’. There is a barrier, a barrier caused by sin.
If we go back to Genesis, we find that sin separates us from God. There is a barrier, there is a closed door. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden as a result of them taking the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and they came to know good and evil.
Once they came to know evil, they could not fellowship with God anymore and they were thrown out of the Garden of Eden; a symbol our lost innocence which has affected every human being from that time on.
And that way, the rulership of the world was actually transferred from the human race to the enemy of our souls, to the Devil who Jesus described as being the ruler of this present world darkness.
29 “And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do.John 14:29-31
That doesn’t mean that every person in the world is a demon, but it does mean that Satan has a controlling influence over what’s taking place in the world today. And you don’t have to look very far to see that that is the case.
God has to provide a way of redemption to get us out of this situation, to bring people back to Himself so that people can stand in His holy place.
It is clear from our experience that only a remnant, only a small number of people are actually going to find this.
Yet, God is looking for a people who will call upon His name and find salvation.
It is interesting to note when you look in the Psalm that it says that the person who has clean hands will receive blessing from the Lord, righteousness from the God of His Salvation.
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,Psalm 24.4-6
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah
I have said this before but the word ‘salvation’, in the Hebrew scriptures is יְשׁוּעָה Yeshua [yǝšûʿâ] which is the name of Jesus. There is a connection between receiving salvation and receiving Jesus.
The Psalm also says, This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face.
Jacob’s an interesting character, isn’t he? In the Bible, Jacob was chosen by God. He sought after God and yet he also sinned and failed. His name was יַעֲקֹב, Yakov [yaʿăqōb]. Yakov was the twin son of Isaac and Rebecca, grandson of Abraham. And, according to the scriptures, when he was born with his twin, his older brother Esau came out first and he was the second son. Therefore, in the natural light of things, the older brother Esau should receive the blessing and the birth right, and receive privileges which the second son would not receive.
Jacob was clutching Esau’s heel and the Hebrew word for heel is עָקֵב akev [ʿāqēb] a sound which is not far from Yakov. So, there again, there is a connection between his name and his clutching after the heel of Esau.
We find that the root for the same word is from the Hebrew word עֲקוֹב [ʿăqôb] ‘to follow’, and ‘to supplant’ and carries the idea of ‘deceiving’ or ‘taking something by stealth’. And one of the things which you see in the story of Jacob is that he uses deception in order to get ‘the promise of the firstborn’ and get the blessing from his father.
Yet, at the same time, that was God’s will, that he should have the blessing because God says that
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord.Malachi 1:1-3
“Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’
Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?”
Says the Lord.
“Yet Jacob I have loved;
3 But Esau I have hated,
And laid waste his mountains and his heritage
For the jackals of the wilderness.”
God preferred Jacob over Esau because Esau is described as being a carnal man who didn’t look after God. But Jacob is the picture of the believer. He is looking for God and yet he falls and he fails and sins, and God brings him back to Himself.
In the scriptures, we read how he lived up to his name. He supplanted his older brother who had significant rights, he purchased Esau’s birth right for a bowl of stew, and he also impersonated Esau so that his blind father Isaac gave him the blessing which was intended for Esau. As a result of that, Esau swore to kill his brother Jacob and Jacob had to flee to his uncle Laban in what is now Syria. There, he served Laban for seven years for his wife Leah whom he mistook for Rachel and then he served for another seven years to get Rachel whom he preferred. And he served for another seven years to get the flocks which he’d been tendering all that time. He was deceived and also he did a bit of deceiving himself.
It is all a story of the fullness of humanity, and the interesting thing is that, when Jacob comes back to the land, he comes back to the borders of the Promised Land and he is fearful of how his brother Esau is going to receive him. He sends all the flocks and his wife and children, other wives and children across and he’s left alone behind. He wrestles then with a man until the daybreak and this mysterious man who he wrestles with says, Jacob would not let Him go until He bless him. When the mysterious man finally blesses Jacob, Jacob realises that the One he has been wrestling with is God.
24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.”
But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!”
27 So He said to him, “What is your name?”
He said, “Jacob.”
28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.”
And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”Genesis 32.24-30
Jacob says that he’s seen the face of God at Peniel where God changes his name from Jacob to יִשְׂרָאֵל [yīsrāʾēl] which means Israel Prince with God.
It is a remarkable story. What it really is saying is that Jacob was wrestling with God, with a personal God who actually came and encountered him and changed his name. And, as He changed Jacob’s name, He also changed his nature. So, it went from being Jacob ‘the supplanter’ to being Israel ‘the prince with God’.
It is also interesting that when this Psalm speaks about this generation of Jacob:
6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,Psalm 24.6
Who seek Your face. Selah
If you think about it, Jacob is ‘a picture of the human race’. He does certain things which are not right and yet he has a heart which is seeking after God. And God actually recognizes that he has the heart that seeks after God whereas his brother Esau is a carnal man and just lives for this world and for pleasure.
Therefore God prefers Jacob to Esau even though Jacob is not a perfect human being. That is encouraging to us because I don’t know about you but I’m not a perfect human being, and I guess none of you are either, yet God still loves us and God is able to redeem us and bring us to Himself, ‘the generation that seeks Him’.
Right through the Bible, you see that there are people whom God takes, whom He can turn towards Himself, people who commit sins and who, nevertheless, come to His presence and to His nature.
One of the remarkable stories in the Old Testament is about David a man after God’s heart, a man blessed as the King who would be the servant of the Lord.
You know the story how David, at one point, is sitting in his house and he sees a beautiful woman (Bathsheba) who is bathing (I guess she was not wearing any clothes), and he desires her and asks her to come to his house and seduces her, and has sex with her and she produces a child.
David then realises he is in trouble because her husband (Uriah) is away, fighting in the war and so asks the husband to come back and to sleep with his own wife and hopes that he will then conceive a child. David knows that that would not happen anyway, because the woman is already pregnant with his child. Uriah doesn’t do that:
11 And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”2 Samuel 11.11
So, David sends Uriah back to the battlefield and tells Joab (nephew of King David and commander of his army) to put him near the front line of the war so that he will be killed if there is a battle. And so Uriah is killed.
In that little story David has committed two of the ‘big sins’, adultery and murder. How could God still love him? How could God still accept him?
The prophet (Nathan) then comes to David and says you’ve sinned and tells him to repent,
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ”
13 So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”2 Samuel 12.7-13
David does repent, receives forgiveness, and writes one of the great psalms of the of the Hebrew scriptures, Psalm 51:
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,Psalm 51.1-11
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
A remarkable Psalm in which David says, Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Therefore, even after committing those sins, David could come into the presence of the Lord having clean hands and a pure heart, not by his own cleanliness but by being received by God and redeemed through the Holy Spirit, and having the Holy Spirit dwelling within him.
He prays to God for redemption, he prays to God to forgive his sins and receive His forgiveness and he receives the assurance of His salvation.
We all need to come to that point, and we also need the Word of God to cleanse us and to keep us in the right way.
Psalm 119 says,
9 How can a young man cleanse his way?Psalm 119.9-10
By taking heed according to Your word.
10 With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
How can we keep our lives on the right path? By taking heed of the Word of God and putting it in our hearts, hiding it in our hearts so that we won’t sin against the Lord.
In the Old Testament, this would involve the killing of an animal, either a sheep or a goat, and the sacrifices were made in order to cover a person’s sin. What they would do is take an animal which was without sin or blemish, place it on the altar and there, it would shed its blood it would shed its blood to the point of death.
You might be saying that ‘this animal is innocent but I am guilty, and I am transferring my sin onto this innocent animal in order that I may be forgiven‘. God was pleased to accept that. Sometimes, people say it is a very barbaric practice to kill an animal in this way, but it was God’s way to put people right with Himself in the Old Testament dispensation.
The Book of Leviticus tells you that the life of the flesh is in the blood, it’s the blood that makes atonement for your sin, for your soul.
11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’Leviticus 17:11
Therefore, the blood of atonement is required in order to cover sin and to bring us into the presence of God.
On the Day of Atonement, the priest would take two goats one will be sacrificed in the Holy place the goat for the sin offering and then, the second goat, the scapegoat would be taken and the priest would pray over it for the sins of the people and send it out into the wilderness to carry away their sins.
So, both of those goats were actually part of the sin offering of the Day of Atonement and they would carry away the sin.
At the end of Leviticus 16, it says,
30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.Leviticus 16:30
How can a young man be clean before the Lord then? How can each one of us come into that presence of the Lord with clean hands? If we accept that blood of atonement which is sacrificed.
That does not mean to say we expect you to come in here with sheep and goats, and we’re going to kill them. That would not cover your sins because it is no longer necessary. Those practices were a temporary thing until Jesus came as the perfect Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. Yet, it is the same principle that applies.
Jesus is without sin and God placed the sin of the world upon Him, so that, as we repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, our sins are transferred from ourselves onto Jesus who is without sin, and He becomes the One who can bring us into the presence of God.
As I have quoted before:
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;Isaiah 53.6
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
And the New Testament, in the Book of Hebrews compares the sacrifice of the Old Testament with the Messiah’s sacrifice and says that the sacrifice of Messiah brings us into a much better Covenant:
11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.Hebrews 9.11-15
So, if the blood of bulls and goats was effective under the Old Covenant, how much more effective under the New Covenant is the blood of Yeshua / Jesus the Messiah to cover the sins of all those who call upon Him and to be our atoning sacrifice that we may come into the presence of God with clean hands and a pure heart, redeemed through the blood of Jesus.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.James 4:8
And 1 John says,
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.1 John 1.5-10
The power of the blood of Jesus is able to cleanse you and me from our sins. That is why we believe in Jesus. He’s the One Way we can come to God with clean hands and a pure heart.
In fact, He is the only way. Religion cannot bring you there and, interestingly, if you compare the New Covenant with rabbinic Judaism, the interesting thing is that, after Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, 40 years later, the Temple was destroyed. The only place where the Jewish people could offer the sacrifice was removed and, from that time onwards, there has been no blood of atonement offered in Judaism because the only place they could do so was in the Temple.
That is why, since the time of the destruction of the Temple, believers in Judaism have to believe that God would be able to forgive them based on their ‘repentance and good works’ which, in fact, the Bible says does not bring forgiveness since the blood of atonement is needed for the forgiveness of sins. This is why Jewish people, as well as Gentiles, need Yeshua Jesus the Messiah.