Four Requirements To Experience God's Presence
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? Psalm 24:3
The Bible contains a collection of Psalms called the “Psalms of Ascent”. These Psalms were recited as the people of God made their journey up to Jerusalem, especially at the time of Passover. To ascend means to go up, to meet, or to visit. This is an action that God desires for His people. Psalm 24, although not a Psalm of Ascent, speaks very pointedly about this action.
Ascending speaks of our position, and God’s position. Before anyone sets out to climb a mountain, they first have to consider where they begin, and where they will end. Recognizing several things about yourself and several things about God are vital for the journey into His presence.
Here are a few things to consider:
· You are at the bottom of the hill – God is at the top of the hill
· You are low – God is high
· You are a sinner – God is holy and righteous
· You are distant – God wants you near
· You are far from God’s presence – God wants you in His presence
Salvation is a free gift that is unearned, and yet, God also calls us to action; he calls us to climb the hill of the Lord. Getting to the place where we are truly meeting with God can sometimes feel like a slow and arduous hike up a mountain. However, take heart, God wants to bring you from where you are, up to where he is. God invites us to come up to meet with him – but God considers your spiritual fitness. Will you be able to make the climb?
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. Psalm 24:3-4
To stand in the holy place sounds like a great joy, but a slow onset of discouragement comes as you consider how to get there. You look at the things God requires and you think, “Well, that’s not me. I don’t qualify.” He is asking you to be holy as He is holy. You need to be clean, pure, loyal, and truthful. These are large request if you really know yourself. So how is this even possible? Look at the requirements for anyone who wants to ascend the hill of the Lord, and stand in His holy place.
1 - You Must Have Clean Hands…
Our hands speak of our actions - what we do. God is saying if you want to come be where He is, you need to have clean hands. You must keep yourself from acts of sin that defile your hands. To have clean hands is to not be stained with the dirtiness of the world and the flesh. Cleansed hands are what God looks for in His service. As you lift your hands in worship, God will see the state of them.
2 - You Must Have A Pure Heart
If your hands signify your outward actions, your heart signifies your inward intentions. As clean as your hands might look outwardly, God is asking for more - that your heart would be pure. All of the thoughts and emotions and intention that make up who you are on the inside are to be pure. There are no secrets of the heart to the God who sees in secret.
3 - You Must Not Lift Your Soul To An Idol
Our souls have a way of getting carried off toward false things, which the Bible calls idolatry. Idolatry happens when you put things in the place of God, and get your worth and satisfaction from them. The lusts of the flesh, the passions of the world, and the pride of man, are all contrary to what God would have your soul delight in. To lift up your soul is to allow your soul to reach, grasp, and hold onto something. Either your soul with be lifted up to God, to desire and delight in Him, or it will be lifted to something else.
4 - You Are Not To Swear Deceitfully
The language of those who approach God also needs to be pure and truthful. God speaks truthfully, and if we are to communicate with him, we too have to speak truthfully. The Prophet Isaiah had a vision of the Lord, and he quickly became aware of the uncleanness of his lips. God wants you to be pure in speech. He also wants you to keep your word. He wants you to deal honestly with people - not breaking promises.
These are the qualifications of any person who aspires to ascend this hill of the Lord. If you have no regard for the Lord in your actions, intentions, desires, and speech, you have no business on the hill of the Lord. However, the invitation is given, and if you are willing to meet the requirements, you can have fellowship with God.
Imagine yourself at the base of the hill, and you begin to examine yourself.
Are my hands clean (good actions)?
Is my heart is pure (good intentions)?
Have I lifted my soul to anything false (good desires)?
Have I sworn deceitfully (good speech)?
You need to ask yourself if these conditions are met. (Yes or No). Are you good enough to approach God? Are you clean and pure enough to be in his presence?
You look at these conditions, and you ask yourself if you are qualified to ascend. If there is any amount of honesty you might begin to despair, to get depressed, and to feel unworthy.
“I see that my hands are not always clean. My heart is not always pure. Idolatry is just a quick turn away. Words escape my mouth before I realize their foolishness. But I want to receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of my salvation (Psalm 24:5) If these conditions are not met, how will I ever get to God; how will I ever receive blessing and righteousness from God?”
I think you understand where this is going…
Thankfully, God established a better covenant, a New Covenant through the person and work of Jesus. The psalmist was looking through the lens of the Old Covenant, in the terms of law. His perspective was based upon blessings and curses, and his own ability to measure up. In the New Covenant we see that Jesus met all of these qualifications: Jesus had clean hands, Jesus had a pure heart, Jesus never lifted up his soul to an idol, and Jesus never swore deceitfully. Jesus was a perfect person.
Because Jesus was the righteous one, in His righteousness, you can ascend His holy hill and stand in His holy place. By faith you can ascend with Jesus.
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:20-24
What good news that is! The gospel is this: that we were never good enough, and will never be good enough to stand before God on our own righteousness, but Jesus, who became for us righteousness from God, stands before God the Father on our behalf and declares us righteous. He brings us up to where He is. We ascend the hill based on the righteousness of Jesus.
All of this being true, we also need to consider how the words of this psalm apply to the Christian. For the Christian, our obedient actions will be a true reflection of our relationship with God.
We see very similar commands of this Psalm in the New Testament:
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)
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment. (James 5:12)
Just because Jesus fulfills our righteous requirement does not mean that we have a pass on holiness. God’s righteousness must become our own righteousness. When we have been changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will seek to live holy lives, and in doing so, will experience a greater depth of intimacy with God.
“Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” Psalm 24:6
God is seeking a generation of men and women who will live holy lives and worship God in spirit and in truth. Do you want to ascend the hill of the Lord and seek his face? Then get ready. Be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Be washed by the water of the Word of God. Let God remove a heart of stone and put in you a heart of flesh. Get ready for his Holy Spirit to knock down the idols on the throne of your life and put Jesus back where he belongs, sitting as King and Lord of your life. Get ready to seek God’s face as you come into His holy presence.
If you accept the invitation to ascend, fasten your seatbelt, because God is going to take you on an epic journey.