God of Jacob
by Jack Wald | August 13th, 2017

Psalm 24

The term Renaissance man is used for a very clever person who is good at many different things. The idea comes from a time of history in Europe called the Renaissance which lasted from about 1400 to 1600. One of the most famous people alive during this time was Leonardo da Vinci whose areas of interests included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. The “Mona Lisa”, which can be viewed in the Louvre in Paris, and “The Last Supper”, which is the most copied painting in history, are his works. He is credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank. He was the first great Renaissance man.

3500 years earlier, there was a man who predated the term “renaissance man” but who was a very clever person who was good at many different things. He was a shepherd, he was an athlete, he was a poet, he was a musician, he was a skilled leader, a brilliant military strategist. He was King David.

He is credited with 73 of the 150 psalms in the Bible and this morning we will look at Psalm 24.

The historical context for this psalm concerns the Ark of the Covenant. If you have watched the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know that the Ark of the Covenant was viewed as having special, fearful, spiritual powers.

When Moses received the law from God on Mt. Sinai, he also received instructions about how to make the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 25:10–16) It was to be built of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. It was overlayed with gold inside and out. There were gold rings on its legs with rings on the side through which poles of acacia wood were inserted so the Ark could be carried by four men. The stone tablets with the law given to Moses were to be put inside the Ark.

Over time, in addition to the stone tablets inscribed with the “Ten Words”, the Ten Commandments, a pot of manna, the food God provided for the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness, and Aaron’s staff were put in the Ark.

The Ark of the Covenant was the dwelling place of God on earth and was treated with great awe and respect.

But, toward the end of Eli’s rule as high priest and judge of Israel (he was the priest who was succeeded by Samuel), his two disobedient sons treated the Ark of the Covenant with disrespect. In a battle against the Philistines, they took the Ark into battle, thinking that would bring them success. But the battle was lost, the sons of Eli were killed, and the Ark was captured by the Philistines.

The Philistines put the Ark in their temple to Dagon, the Philistine god. But in the morning, they found Dagon lying on the ground before the Ark. They set Dagon upright but the next morning Dagon was again lying on the ground before the ark with his head and hands broken off. This was a clear sign that Dagon had been defeated by the Israelite’s god.

For seven months the Ark of the Covenant was moved from city to city but wherever it went, a plague broke out. So the Philistines sent it back to Israel.

When it arrived in Beth Shemesh, people were curious about what was inside the Ark. I too would be curious. How many people can resist opening a chest to see what is inside? (1 Samuel 6:19–20)
But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the Lord. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them. 20 And the people of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?”

For the next twenty years the Ark of the Covenant resided at the home of Abinadab.

In these twenty years, David became king of Israel and decided to bring the Ark of the Covenant up into Jerusalem.

David did not do this casually. He knew the history of the Ark and treated it with great respect. He assembled all the able young men of Israel, thirty thousand. This was not going to be a small procession. They set the Ark on a new cart, not an old rickety cart, but a new one. They left the house of Abinadab and set out in a procession. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab were guiding the cart. (2 Samuel 6:5)
David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.

David was doing everything in his power to treat the Ark of the Covenant with respect and honor. But then, (2 Samuel 6:6-7)
When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

David was angry because the Lord’s wrath had killed Uzzah. What did Uzzah do wrong? Nothing. He had only tried to help, and for this, he was killed? I hope I meet Uzzah in heaven and can ask him about this.

David was angry and David was afraid of the Lord. He asked, “How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?”

David left the Ark at the home of Obed-Edom and returned to Jerusalem. But then he received reports that God was greatly blessing the household of Obed-Edom and David wanted that blessing in Jerusalem.

So three months after the death of Uzzah, David made new plans to bring the Ark up the hill into Jerusalem. Part of that plan meant he needed to write a psalm for the occasion.

David had gathered all his able young men and they had danced with all their might, but that had not been enough. This time he needed more honor and more respect. This time he would sacrifice a bull after the men carrying the Ark had taken six steps. This time he would sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. And this time he would write a special psalm for the occasion.

He began with recognition of God as the creator of the universe and creator of all that lived in the universe.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

That seemed right. It was not long, but it said everything. God made us, he made the earth, he founded it, he established it.

And then he thought of Uzzah who had watched over the Ark along with his father and brother for twenty years. Uzzah had been struck dead because he put out a hand to steady the Ark when the ox stumbled. Why Uzzah? It was the ox that had stumbled. What was irreverent about what Uzzah did?

When they set out to bring the Ark up the hill into Jerusalem, what would happen to those who were carrying the Ark or to any of those present when the Ark was being carried? So David wrote:

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?

That’s the question the people of Beth-Shemesh had asked twenty years ago and they didn’t know the answer. But David knew the answer. David knew enough about God to know the answer. He quickly wrote down four points to put into his psalm.
1. He who has clean hands.
2. And a pure heart.
3. Who does not trust in an idol.
4. And does not swear by a false god.

God does not ask us to pass an intelligence test. We don’t have to have influential parents. We don’t have to be rich and famous. God looks at the heart and wants a good, honorable, righteous person.

So now that David had answered the question, he knew what to write next and the words were quickly written down. David looked at what he had written.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,

It was short and to the point. In his mind he could hear the singers and the musicians lifting this praise up to God over and over again as they danced their way up the hill into Jerusalem. This was a good psalm and David set down the tablet and looked around.

It was a good psalm, so why was he bothered? What was disturbing him?

He kept thinking about Uzzah. What had happened three months ago? Why had Uzzah been struck dead?

David put it aside and decided to come back to it after a night of sleep.

In the morning when he woke and went out on the terrace, he picked up the tablet and immediately knew what was wrong. He looked at the line, “the one who has clean hands” and thought of the bridal price for Michal.

After David had killed Goliath and gained enormous popularity so that the people of Israel sang, “Saul killed his thousands, but David his ten thousands,” Saul was jealous and wanted to get rid of David who he viewed as a dangerous rival. So Saul promised David his daughter Michal as his bride if he would bring the bridal price of 100 foreskins, thinking that the Philistines would do him a favor and kill David.

David had out thought his brothers all his life and now he out thought Saul. He knew what Saul was trying to do to him but he also knew that this would not be a difficult task. So he set out with a few of his trusted men and they killed not just 100 but 200 Philistines. They cut off the foreskins and headed back to Saul.

When David came before Saul he dramatically picked up that bloody bundle of flesh and threw it on the floor in front of Saul. And then he counted them, one by one, to rub it in. He had brought back twice as many foreskins as Saul had requested. Saul had set a trap and David defiantly announced to Saul that he had easily avoided the trap.

David left the room, washed his hands, took a bath, changed his clothes, washed his hands again – but he could not get rid of the sensation of that bloody, slimy mess on his hands. For weeks he felt the blood on his hands, washing them over and over, but to no avail.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands

Would God call his hands clean?

What about a pure heart?

He thought about Nabal and Abigail.

David and his men were hiding from Saul and his army who were trying to kill him. They were hiding in the wilderness where it is difficult to find food and David had to provide food for 600 men plus their wives and children.

So when it was sheep-shearing time, David sent a few of his men to Nabal, a wealthy sheep owner, to ask him to share some of his abundance with them. He told them to tell Nabal that all the time his men were watching their sheep, David and his men had not touched even one of them. And in addition, they had protected Nabal’s sheep herders.

Nabal had no time for this and sent David’s men away, without so much as a scrap of bread. When David heard their report, his anger flared. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, this was his older brothers telling him he was no good, not worthy, and not getting the food he wanted. So David’s anger burned and he set out to kill Nabal and his men. Murder was in his heart.

Only the cleverness of Nabal’s beautiful, young wife kept him from doing the evil he was intending to do. He ended up that day with generous gifts from the household of Nabal, through the hand of Abigail, and did not murder as he had intended to do.

No blood on his hands this time, but a pure heart?

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,

Two lines were crossed out on the tablet. What about not trusting in an idol?

Now David thought of Nob where his lies cost the lives of eighty-five priests and their wives and children.

David was on the run from Saul who was jealous of him and wanted to kill his rival. He fled without having time to make preparations and arrived at Nob needing food. (1 Samuel 21:1–3)
David went to Nob, to Ahimelek the priest. Ahimelek trembled when he met him, and asked, “Why are you alone? Why is no one with you?”
2 David answered Ahimelek the priest, “The king sent me on a mission and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about the mission I am sending you on.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place. 3 Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever you can find.”

Ahimelek trembled when he met David. He knew something was wrong, but David was a good liar. Lies tumbled out of his lips with ease. With all innocence and sincerity he told Ahimelek that Saul had sent him on a secret mission and asked for bread. Ahimelek loved David and would have given him anything, but there was only the bread that had been consecrated and put on the altar as an offering to God. However, Ahimelek told David, if he and his men had kept themselves from women, they could have the bread that had been consecrated the day before and replaced with fresh bread. David continued with his glib lies.

(1 Samuel 21:5–6)
David replied, “Indeed women have been kept from us, as usual whenever I set out. The men’s bodies are holy even on missions that are not holy. How much more so today!” 6 So the priest gave him the consecrated bread, since there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence that had been removed from before the Lord and replaced by hot bread on the day it was taken away.

As David was leaving, he asked for a sword, which was not a simple request. The Philistines still controlled the process of making iron and swords were hard to come by in Israel. But Goliath’s sword happened to be there and Ahimelek gave that to David.

David went off, but he left having seen Saul’s chief herdsman and knew that he would report to Saul what Ahimelek had done for David.

Later, when David learned that Saul had killed eighty-five priests, including Ahimelek, for aiding David in his escape and also had killed all the men, women, and children in Nob, his heart sank.

He had lied to Ahimelek the priest just to fill his belly with some food. He had made his survival an idol and lied, even though he knew his lie was putting Ahimelek in great danger.

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol

David looked at his tablet where he had crossed off clean hands, pure heart and now not trusting in an idol. What about swearing by a false god?

And his mind thought of Ziglag, the small village in the land of the Philistines where he and his men hid from Saul. For a year and four months David deceived the local king by convincing him he was raiding Israelite villages. But in reality David was raiding remote Philistine villages and killing every man, woman, and child in the village to cover his tracks.

Sixteen months of swearing decitfully to King Achish and the murder of innocents. David looked down at his tablet and crossed off, “or swear by a false god.”

He looked at his psalm and read it in despair.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,

What right did David have to bring the Ark of the Covenant up the hill into Jerusalem? He had no right. He was going to have to cancel the grand event that everyone was anticipating and leave the Ark at the home of Obed-Edom.

David sat in his despair for a long time and then David thought of God is described in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. Over and over again God is described as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These are the three great patriarchs of Israel.

Abraham was the father of Israel to whom God had revealed himself. Isaac had faithfully served God as Abraham’s son. But then there was Jacob, the cheater, the deceiver. Jacob who stole his twin brother’s birthright and stole the blessing Isaac intended to give to Esau. Jacob moved though his life, outwitting, deceiving others to get whatever he wanted. Of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jacob was the unlikely member of this trio of patriarchs.

“The God of Jacob.” If God was the God of Jacob, maybe there was hope for David as well. And so David picked up his clay tablet and added a line.

After, “Such is the generation of those who seek him,” he added, “who seek your face, God of Jacob.”

“God of Jacob.” His heart filled with hope and now in his exhilaration, the words flew as David finished off with an explosion of praise to the God of Jacob who was also the God of David. God who had loved Jacob and pursued Jacob with his love would also pursue David with his love. God who had accepted Jacob would also accept David.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.,
7 Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you 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, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

This was great news for David and it is great news of great joy to you and to me.

We have a lot of wonderful people in our church community. As we greet people and talk with them after church we are impressed with how wonderful they are, but underneath the surface, we who are greeted and welcomed know that there is another person that people do not see.

If I had the ability to put my hand on your head and read your thoughts and memories, is there anyone here this morning that would allow me to do this? Is there anyone among us who does not have things they want to hide from everyone else? We all have things we have done, said, and thought that we are deeply ashamed about.

Do we have, “clean hands and a pure heart?” Have we ever put our trust in an idol or sworn by a false god?” If we read this through quickly without thinking much about what it means, we might be able to say, “yes.” If we think about it and compare ourselves to others who do much worse things than we do, we might be able to say, “yes.”

But if we sit in the presence of God who knows us better than we know ourselves, the answer is very clearly, “no.” We are not worthy of ascending the mountain of the Lord and standing in his holy place.

This is why David’s understanding in Psalm 24 is such good news for us. God is the God of Jacob and that makes room for you and for me in God’s kingdom. This is the Gospel.

Paul wrote in Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We are lost and without hope apart from the work of Jesus to rescue us. We may be better than many other people in the world, but we are not good enough. We may be more religious than many other people in the world, but that does not make us good enough.

There are many people who come to church and sing praises to God. Like David, there are people who dance with all their might in giving praise to God. But Jesus said, (Matthew 7:21–23)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

No matter how much we read the Bible, how much we pray, how much we give praise, how much we give of our time and money to the church, how many kind and charitable acts we do for others, we are lost and without hope.

It is only when we realize, like David did, that we are sinners, that we can be rescued by Jesus. Here is our sin: given a choice between God and ourselves, we inevitably choose ourselves. We bend the truth, we stretch the truth, we lie, to get what we want. We spend far too much time pursuing the wealth and pleasures of the world and far too little time seeking intimacy in our relationship with God. We seek the power and authority of spiritual gifts more than we seek the love of Jesus. We seek the approval of others more than we seek the approval of God. And we try to hide from ourselves that we do any of these things. Or we try to justify the things we do. Or we compare ourselves to others and think we are pretty good in comparison.

We are lost. We deserve the wrath of God. But God die not leave us in the hopelessness of our sin. God gave up his rights and privileges and Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph. God entered into the world, becoming like us, so he could save us.

God is the God of Jacob who God pursued until Jacob met him at Peniel and was blessed by God. God pursued me despite my repeated rejections of him. God pursued me until I surrendered to him.

God has pursued you and he will continue to pursue you all the days of your life. You can reject him. You can dismiss the things you have learned in Sunday School and church. You can drift with the cultural values that will take you away from Jesus. You can set out on a path that takes you away from the church and faith in Jesus, but God will pursue you. God will never stop pursuing you.

He will pursue you, not because he wants to punish you, not because he wants to deprive you of things you want, but because he loves you and wants you to be in an intimate relationship with him. This is why you were created. As Randy Alcorn has written, You were created for a person and a place. Jesus is the person and heaven is the place.

We have wonderful people in our community of followers of Jesus and you are better than many other people in the world, but you are not good enough. None of us are good enough. And so we surrender to Jesus, saying, “I want to live my life for you. I give you my studies, my career, my money and possessions, my relationships. Make my dreams and ambitions dreams and ambitions that will please you and bring you glory.”

We are loved by the God of Jacob, the God of David and the God of Jack. If there is room in the kingdom of God for us, there is room for you.