The psalmA psalm is a song of praise. In the Old Testament 150 psalms comprise the psalter, although some of the psalms are laments and thanksgivings. In the New Testament early Christians gathered to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. More provides a liturgy for those entering the templeThe Jerusalem temple, unlike the tabernacle, was a permanent structure, although (like the tabernacle) it was a place of worship and religious activity. On one occasion Jesus felt such activity was unacceptable and, as reported in all four Gospels, drove from the temple those engaged... More sanctuaryA sanctuary is the consecrated area around the altar of a church or temple. It also means a place of safety where one can flee for protection. In the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, God is referred to as a sanctuary, a refuge from... More for worship.
The question and answer form of Psalm 24 seems to reflect its responsive use in worship. Along with Psalm 15, it contains a liturgical dialogue, perhaps sung at the sanctuary gateGates are openings in walls or fences for entrance and departure. In the Bible (as in Ruth and the prophets) the city gate was a commercial center where business and social transactions took place. In Amos the gate is the location of the law court... More, to announce the requirements of entry (see 15:1-5).
The liturgy begins with a brief hymn of praise (vv. 1-2) that proclaims the sovereign rule of God. All the earth belongs to God, because God made it and maintains it.
A representative of the people asks the question about qualifications for entrance: “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?” (v. 3). On the one hand, the temple is meant as a “house of prayer for all peoples” (IsaiahIsaiah, son of Amoz, who prophesied in Jerusalem, is included among the prophets of the eighth century B.C.E. (along with Amos, Hosea, and Micah)--preachers who boldly proclaimed God's word of judgment against the economic, social, and religious disorders of their time. More 56:7); on the other hand, those who enter are expected to come with dedication and faith, not haphazardly.
Someone, probably a priestA priest is a person who has the authority to perform religious rites. In New Testament times priests were responsible for daily offerings and sacrifices in the temple. More, describes the qualifications: “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully” (v. 4). Clean hands and pure hearts encompass both life and faith, behavior and intention. This is shown by obedience to the commandments, which are summarized by reference to not taking the Lord’s name in vain (the grammar is similar to that in v. 4b) and not bearing false witness (v. 4c). Psalm 15 responds similarly, ticking off other examples of God’s commands (15:2-5). The point is hardly to limit the interest to these particular commands, but to indicate obedience to all God’s law.
But then can anyone enter? Are any blameless (15:2) or clean and pure (24:4)? The psalmists know that “no one living is righteous” (143:2), so this is not a claim that some are or can be sinless. Still, it is a call for a commitment to God and the commandments, a kind of pledge of allegiance to God’s covenantA covenant is a promise or agreement. In the Bible the promises made between God and God's people are known as covenants; they state or imply a relationship of commitment and obedience. More with Israel. People come not accidentally but with the hope and intention to “seek the face of the God of Jacob” (v. 6).
The procession enters with responsive song (vv. 7-10). Worshipers call for the gates to open as God enters with the people. God is not confined to the temple, but has been with the people along the way. God’s entry would have been symbolized by carrying in the ark of the covenantThe ark of the covenant was a box or chest that God commanded the Israelites to make from wood richly adorned with gold. The ark was built to contain the tablets of the covenant (the Ten Commandments). The ark served as a mobile shrine to... More. Here comes God, the Lord of hosts, the King of glory! Readers can imagine the grand pageantry of this ceremony.