So this is one of those long posts I promised I wouldn’t do. Palm Sunday is a powerful day, here are some thoughts on it from Psalm 24.
[Psa 24:1-10 NKJV] 1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters. 3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? 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. 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 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah
Do you remember times of anticipating someone’s arrival? When you hear the phrase, “Wait until your father gets home…” What do you think of? I can think of moments in my life that statement has excited me. When my dad and I were working on my restoring my first car, I was excited about his arrival. As a kid, in general I was always excited about my dad getting home from work because he was always doing something with us; some fort to be built, some fish to be caught… and I always looked forward to it. Then there were those times when I feared His coming. Like the time when I laughed at my mom when she tried to spank me. I laughed until I heard the words, “You can wait for your dad to get home.” Yeah, I wasn’t that excited.
Well, Psalm 24 is a Psalm of someone’s arrival. It paints a picture of an eternal, worthy King; a King who is Lord and creator of all, who is coming to a great city. His identifying monicker, “The King of Glory”, sets His arrival apart and above all others. He has an anticipated day of arrival, and along with him He brings blessing and salvation to all whose gates are opened to His coming. So why Psalm 24 on Palm Sunday? Many of us are familiar with the Hallel Psalm 118 that declare the cries of the people on that first Palm Sunday, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” While Psalm 24 is not directly mentioned in the triumphal entry narrative, it is an appropriate, prophetic picture for Palm Sunday. It’s also interesting Psalm 24 is one of the psalms used by the Jews in their daily liturgies. On Monday they meditate on Psalm 48 – on Tuesday, Psalm 82 – on Wednesday, Psalm 94 – on Thursday, Psalm 81 – on Friday, Psalm 93 – the Sabbath psalm is 92 – on Sunday, Psalm 24.
NOTE OF CONTEXT: It’s helpful to note that Psalms 22-24 comprise a trilogy that prophetically speaks of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. They are commonly referred to as the Shepherd Psalms.
- Psalm 22 reveals Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” who gives his life for His sheep. We see a picture of tremendous suffering and sacrifice.
- Psalm 23 reveals Jesus as the “Great Shepherd” who tends His flock and leads them besides still waters and into green pastures.
- Psalm 24 reveals Jesus as the “Chief Shepherd” who is coming as the King of glory.
Jesus receives each of these titles in the NT:
- In the gospel of John chapter 10 He refers to himself as the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep.
- In Hebrews 13 , He is the great shepherd who makes us compete in every good work as he leads us through life.
- Finally, 1 Peter 5 refers to Jesus as the “Chief Shepherd” who will one day appear, bringing with Him crowns of glory and reward.
Palm Sunday represents a day of arrival, but not just anyone’s arrival. It’s the day we remember and celebrate the week leading up to the cross when Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the promised King. This was the day that Daniel prophesied of 476 years earlier (Daniel 9) . The Day when Israel’s King of glory, their promised Messiah Prince and deliverer would enter into the great city. The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey should have been a day of great anticipation and celebration for the Jewish people, but instead there were no open gates to receive the King of glory, only closed and hardened hearts.
“…there were no open gates to receive the King of glory, only closed and hardened hearts…”
If the people had only known WHO it was that rode into town on that bustling day. If they only had connected that moment with Psalm 24 , they would have realized that this was no ordinary arrival, and no ordinary King. The problem? Jesus didn’t meet their expectations. 150 years or so prior to this moment, Judah Maccabees led a successful revolt against the Seleucid Empire and was welcomed back into Jerusalem with palm branches laid out on the road before him. When the leaders of Israel looked at Jesus they didn’t see a king of glory, a mighty warrior who could deliver them from the Romans, but only a humble and meek carpenter. If they had only known the glory that was veiled in that man. The glory that was displayed in His cross, in His suffering, and the power that would be displayed in His resurrection!
No wonder this was the day that caused Jesus to weep as he declared in Luke 19:42, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” But the people were ignorant to the scripture. The religious leaders should have calculated and anticipated this day according to the prophecies of Daniel. But no one was REALLY ready. The crowds gathered, not because they anticipated the arrival of their king, but because there was something intriguing to look at. A new political fad and figure on the scene to get amused by.
During His entire ministry Jesus would not allow people to recognize him or praise Him, but this day was the day of His revealing. These things had to be declared and spoken… If man did not do it, creation itself would cry out. The rocks on the ground would have lifted up their voices. Well, as quickly as the red carpet event started it faded. When Jesus wasn’t performing up to human expectations, the praises stopped, the crowds slowly dissipated, and it was back to life as usual. So who is this King? Who was the one who rode on the foal of a donkey into the gates of Jerusalem that Day? Psalm 24 gives us three realities of who this King was and still is. It’s a prophetic picture of Jesus
First, Jesus is the Eternal King (1-2) – 1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. 2 For He has founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.
The King David discusses in Psalm 24 is no ordinary human King. He is the King who both created and has full authority over the earth in its entirety. His name is Jehovah. David speaks of His power and authority; power to create and authority to rule. And yet, the New Testament tells us that this same King and Ruler of Creation has come down to us in the person of Jesus. Of Jesus Christ, Paul clearly tells us…
[Col 1:16-17 NKJV] 16 For by Him all things were created invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. and without Him nothing was made that was made.
John speaks the same truths…
[Jhn 1:3-4 NKJV] 3 All things were made through Him, that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
How fascinating it is, that though He created ALL things, the seen and unseen, the entire physical universe, the author focuses in on the “Earth, its fulness, and its inhabitants.”
You could say,
“Out of all the unfathomable wonders that God has created, nothing consumes and concerns Him more than the affairs of people on this small globe we call earth.”
This is the truth that inspired David to cry out in wonder to God… “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4). Yet Jesus, the creator of all things, the very WORD of God, became flesh and dwelt among us! Of all the things in the universe to be concerned with, it was our separated state from God that concerned Him the most, that motivated Him out of love to come to us and be among us! And why did He do this? So ultimately, the same King who created the universe, could to a new work of creation within us. Paul tells us that all who are in Christ have, “Become a new creation!” How Amazing! The Eternal King who created all things wants to come and make a new creation out of you and me!
Second, Jesus the worthy King (3-6) – 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, 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
Here, David asks two important questions. First, who can ascend (move upwards) to the Hill of the Lord to ultimately stand in His holy place? Here he speaks about the place of tabernacle, the pinnacle of Jerusalem where God promised that His name and His presence would dwell.
CONTEXT: Many people believe that this Psalm was written when David returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been captured by the Philistines (2 Samuel 6). The Ark represented the place of God’s dwelling, God’s presence, and God’s covenant with His people. During that process, one of the men who was transporting the ark, Uzzah, reached out and touched the ark to keep it from falling of the new cart. As soon as his flesh touched the ark, he immediately died. WHY? Because God hated Uzzah? No. Uzzah perished that day because God is perfectly holy and Uzzah was perfectly not. A completely Holy God and completely sinful people are simply not compatible! After witnessing this event, David asks himself, “Who can go? Who can approach God?” David answers His own question in verse 4…
The standards are clear, yet at the end of the day, what person could ever have hands perfectly clean from sin? What person could ever say that their heart has never been inclined toward idolatry? What human could ever say that a deceitful lie has never entered his or her heart or exited the mouth? There is only one that I know of… His name is Jesus . To approach the holiness of God requires a possessing a holiness that is acceptable to Him. And there is only one holiness that He can fully receive, and that is His own. I love Warren Wiersbe’s observation here:
“David did not have clean hands, for he murdered a man; nor did he have a pure heart, for he lusted and committed adultery. He lifted up his soul to vanity and pride when he numbered the people. Solomon could not qualify, for he was an idolater. Even great King Hezekiah fell because of pride. No, the only king who can qualify is Jesus Christ.” -Warren Wiersbe
Symbolically, the Hill of the Lord and His Holy place ultimately point to heaven. The bigger question is, “Who can qualify us for heaven when we have been tainted and disqualified by sin?” We know the answer. King Jesus! This is the deep-seated truth written at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only way that we become worthy to ascend to the presence of the Lord, is to have the righteousness of Jesus Christ imparted to us.
Yes, Jesus is the eternal King, who descended from heaven to redeem his creation, but Jesus is also the worthy King, who ascended back into heaven, to the presence of the Father. And to all who call upon His name in faith, verse 5 offers us the promise that they… “shall receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.”
Finally, the Psalmist teaches us that Jesus the Coming King (7-10) – 7 Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O you gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah
To “Lift up your heads” indicates a watchfulness and expectancy. Notice the dual command from the Psalmist. The command to “lift up” is mentioned twice. I believe that prophetically, this speaks of the reality that this same King will come through the gates of Jerusalem twice. The first time was on Palm Sunday 2000 years ago, the second time will be yet future when Jesus arrives again to establish His Kingdom on the earth. Consider the multiple prophecies of Christ’s return. The prophet Zechariah prophecies of the Messiah’s coming, and in two places, describes it in two very different ways:
Zechariah 9:9 – Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.
While the donkey was an animal used by a king in a coronation, it was not a majestic animal like the horse. It was considered a humble animal. Contrast that with his description in chapter 14…
Zechariah 14:3-4, 9 – 3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. 4 and in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. … 9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be–“The LORD is one,” and His name one.
These are two incredibly different pictures, but they both describe the New Testament accounts of Jesus. 2000 years ago, on the 10th of the Jewish month Nisan, Jesus sent his disciples to acquire a donkey. He rode into Jerusalem through the eastern gate, ironically, on the same day that the animal sacrifices were being inspected at the temple. After this, Jesus died on a cross as the sacrificial lamb, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. But He did not leave without the promise that one day He will return again, but next time, in the manner of Zechariah’s final prophecy. Jude and John confirm this:
Jude 1:14-15 – 14 “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
[Rev 19:11-16 NKJV] 11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
I know this is a lot of scripture to take in, but just to drive home this reality, let’s not forget what Paul said in his Sermon to the Athenians.
[Act 17:30-31 NKJV] 30 “…He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Now there’s a combination of Palm Sunday and Easter! There is an appointed Day that Jesus will return as King and Judge, and we know this to be true because He has resurrected from the grave to live forever more.
What a powerful Psalm! Let me wrap up this Psalm in some final thoughts. As I read the scriptures, I find that God is a God of arrival. What I mean to say is that God is not stagnant or inactive in pursuing humanity. He is a God who can be anticipated because He is always on the move. From the very beginning, when He set the world in motion and placed man upon it, he came, walking toward and walking with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in sweet and unbroken fellowship. When Man spoiled that perfect fellowship through their rebellion and sinful disobedience, God came to humanity through another channel; by calling out His own special people, the nation of Israel through Abraham. He made an everlasting covenant with Israel through which He might continue to pursue humanity.
“I find that God is a God of arrival. What I mean to say is that God is not stagnant or inactive in pursuing humanity.”
When Israel was in Egyptian captivity, and God seemed distant, He came to Moses, speaking through a supernaturally burning bush. Through the mediation of Moses, God delivered His people and imparted to them His perfect law. Despite the sin that separated His people from Him, He made a way through a system of sacrifice, that His people might be near His presence. He gave them a tabernacle in which His presence would dwell, representing His constant desire to be near, lead, guide, and protect them. Later, in like manner, He gave them a temple, a permanent place of dwelling, in which He could be accessed in a limited, yet very profound way.
Through hundreds of years of human rebellion, God still continued to speak through prophets. He continued to pursue humanity through Israel, displaying an undying commitment on His part to not abandon humanity. God’s continuous pursuit finally culminated in the coming of Jesus; God’s very presence and nature, once again walking side by side with His fallen creation; empathizing with them, suffering for them, showing them the Father, and making a way for them to be eternally re-connected with the presence of God through His perfect sacrifice.
After His death and resurrection, God still refused to leave humanity as orphans, so Christ sent the Holy Spirit into our lives; Once again we find God coming to us. To this day, the Holy Spirit relentlessly pursues and men and women, revealing to them Jesus, Who in turn brings them into the eternal glory of God the Father. And today, God is not finished, for the scripture promises us that He will not stop His pursuit until all created things are fully restored into what He originally intended them to be: man dwelling with God in a state of perfect completion. God’s pursuit of humanity will not end until sin is forever removed from the human experience, the devil is forever banished, and a new heaven and earth that reflect His perfect glory are established.
“The scripture promises us that He will not stop His pursuit until all created things are fully restored into what He originally intended them to be…”
Therefore we look up, anticipating that one day, hopefully soon, when He will come yet again to us to bring His righteousness, justice, and the power to make all things new. Let’s face it, as we look at all of human history, we find a story that is all about a God who pursues humanity by promising to come and then following through on those promises by arriving .This is obviously a condensed and shortened list of the history of God’s pursuit. And again, the reason I’m taking you through this concept is because Palm Sunday is about a God who promises to come, and then shows up right on time! And for you, I, and the world today, this principle is extremely applicable because it teaches us a very important principle about God.
“God will show up right on time, every time, and won’t stop showing up until EVERYTHING is exactly as He intends it to be!”
Are you ready for Jesus to arrive? Lift up your eyes, lift up your heads, open your gates, and the King of glory will enter in! The gate He wants to enter is the one into our lives. The throne He wants to sit on is the one within our hearts. To those who receive Him, He will return again to receive them into eternal life!