This is the second post of a two part reflection on Psalm 23 & 24, which I (Josh) have been reading over the past couple of weeks.
A Psalm of David.
In Psalm 24 following directly after Psalm 23, David widens his scope and focuses on the Kingship of God. A king himself, David realizes and acknowledges that God’s kingdom contains the whole earth “and the fullness thereof”. God is the King of Glory, the royal savior who has founded and established the very earth. What I noticed as I read this psalm directly after psalm 23 is the different type of hope it presents. Psalm 23’s hope is the promised intimacy of a loving nurturing God who is Shepherd, who walks with us, makes us lie down in green pastures, who leads us to refreshing streams, who serves us and allows us to dwell in his presence forever. Psalm 24 takes a different tone. The King of Glory, David’s King and ours, is first and foremost holy. He sits on his hill and David asks the question, “who shall ascent” to his place to be near him, while in Psalm 23 David sings he will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever”. The King of Glory demands holiness, clean hands and a pure heart from those who worship him. In Psalm 23, God is the Shepherd alongside us but in Psalm 24, we have to “seek him”.
I realize this sounds like David is presenting two very different Gods but I don’t think he is. Rather than contrasting the two Psalms compliment each other. The King of Glory comes to bring justice and victory over evil, he is strong and mighty and none can stand against him. The Shepherd is with us in the very shadow of evil and death. The King of Glory demands holiness, a completely pure heart; the Shepherd leads us to paths of righteousness, helping us by his steady hand and presence to become holy.
The hope of Psalm 24 is that God, the King will come and defeat evil in the world, bringing his justice and glory. It is the hope that the enemies of Psalm 23 will be destroyed, the valley of the shadow of death will be restored and safe once more and there will be no more evil to fear. What I love about David is his understanding that both aspects of God’s nature are needed in order to have a full understanding of Him. Without a Psalm 23 understanding of the God who loves us, who leads us intimately, who walks with us and overflows with mercy and goodness, we are left with the King of Glory alone, the King who you see from afar on his holy hill, whose power is terrible and absolute and while you want him to be victorious and rid the world of all evil, you aren’t comfortable calling him friend or speaking to him. The King demands holiness and the reality is we as humans are incapable of producing such holiness. We must have the Shepherd guiding us to paths of righteousness, walking alongside us, inviting us into his presence.
But without a Psalm 24 understanding of God, we are left with the Shepherd alone, who is good and loving and merciful but not necessarily someone you would say is all powerful. He protects us and is with us through evil, comforting, but comforting us is not the same as coming in power to definitively destroy all evil. We need the King of Glory to shape our hope for the future, the hope of evil defeated and the world restored.
The beauty of these Psalms is that they point to Jesus who is the Shepherd and the King of Glory in one, the God who loves us so infinitely and intimately he became one of us and who defeated sin and death by his death and resurrection. Rather than be unsure of how close we want to be to the King of Glory, God’s intimate love manifest through Christ assures us we can come close and dwell in his presence. Rather than being unsure of just how powerful the Shepherd is when it comes to evil and death, the Cross tells us evil is already defeated, waging a losing war and one day Jesus will come in glory and power to rid the world completely and finally of both. Jesus came to live with us, to Shepherd us into the very presence of himself than defeated evil on the cross. In Jesus the Shepherd and the King of Glory come together in perfect harmony.