My introduction has little resemblance to Psalm 91, and so I apologise to Bible teachers and students. Because of the spiritual and moral decline in both Church and nation, my opening concern is for coming into God’s presence in God’s way. Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29; Deuteronomy 4:24 and 9:3). He is the One who would go ahead of the Israelites into the Promised Land, destroying and subduing their enemies before them. He established Israel as a nation and a kingdom. “Therefore, since we are receiving an unshakable kingdom, let us be filled with gratitude, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (v.28).
Speaking from Matthew 24:29 as part of an introduction to Psalm 91 might seem strange indeed, but words from Matthew that I used in last week’s Hashkama remain in my mind: “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light. The stars will fall and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” At that time, there will be no shadow but God’s (Psalm 91:1).
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” All the gods that have been revered and worshipped will vanish out of sight when Jesus returns. Jesus came down so that humans could go up. He will come down at the Second Coming and will lift us up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We will be thinking of going up to the mount of the Lord in ancient times, but also the Redemption offered through the Cross of Jesus, so that we can go boldly into the heavenly Holy Place to the very presence of the Father (Hebrews 10:19). The moon not giving its light is also a fulfilment of the ninth plague in Egypt, described in the Book of Exodus. The sun-god Re was reborn every morning. The perpetual darkness created by the hand of God was essentially killing off the principle deity of ancient Egypt. There will be no other gods when Jesus returns. The stars will fall, the gods and astrologers will fall with them. Believers the world over will go up to the mount of the Lord. Abraham is the father of all who believe, those who have not been circumcised, and those who have (Romans 4:11-12). All will go to praise and worship the Lord on His holy hill (Isaiah 2:1-5; Micah 4:2; Zechariah 14:16; Psalm 86:9, and more besides). That time will not come in its completeness until the Lord returns. Then we will go into His presence and forever be with the Lord. We shall see Him and be like Him; and we go up into His presence now through the new and living way. This is the Most High God that we dwell in the shelter of, and whose shadow we rest in (Psalm 91:1).
As I said in Hashkama two weeks ago, some are naming and claiming Psalm 91. This kind of attitude to God’s word is what could lead to the scenario in Matthew 7:23, where Jesus speaks those terrifying words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Psalm 91 is about relationship. It is about fellowship with God. It is about drawing near, not going into self-isolation in the worldly sense of today. It is to draw near to God by leaving aside everything else that would distract one. It is intimacy between the creature and His Creator, and is not something for others to look in on. It is an intimate act of love for God, and a moment where He has our complete being, our full confidence, and attention.
There is preparation. Before we go to Psalm 91, we will look at a few verses from Psalm 24. The complete Psalm consists of three parts. Each part brings out a different consideration of God – (1) The Creator-God (vv.1-2), (2) The Holy God (vv.3-6), (3) The Glorious King (vv.7-10). We are considering vv.1-4 – A. The Great King. B. The Hill of The Lord.
Looking at it from an OT perspective, we are shown the nature of fellowship – “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to falsehood, who does not swear deceitfully” (Psalm 24:1-4). The hill of the Lord refers to the Temple mount, a place where all Gods people will walk when Messiah returns. We have this earthly pattern of a heavenly reality. How many can just walk into God’s presence after reading the conditions of entry? The Lord’s is the earth and its fullness, the world and the dwellers within it. Everyone on earth should draw near to the Lord, but not everyone does or will. God is Creator; He subdues the threatening sea, setting limits between land and sea. Who shall go up on the mount of the Lord – Compare the parallel questions in Psalm 15; and from Psalm 15, look at Micah 6:8. The Hebrew prophet Micah is speaking to all who dwell on earth. Justice, mercy, and humility are increasingly lacking in our time, and in Paul’s day too. Felix kept Paul locked in prison for two years, why? He was waiting for Paul to give him a bribe (Acts 24:26-27), nothing whatever to do with justice. Isaiah speaks of a coming King, “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice. 2Each will be like a shelter from the wind, a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in a dry land, like the shadow of a great rock in an arid land.…” (Isaiah 32:1-2; see Psalm 9:8). “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom’” (Hebrews 1:8).
Psalm 24:4. ‘Giveth no oath in a lie’. The Masoretic text reads nafshi, which would give the literal meaning of “has not borne My self [name?] in a lie.” Some manuscripts read nafsho, “his self” to “bear oneself” meaning to take an oath. The structure of the sentence does not make for God speaking in the first person. To enter God’s holy place requires Purity and singleness of heart, a life sanctified to God – Purity of hands and heart. There was an Irishman that lived near us when I was a child. He was a hard-working man, and like many at that time, he went out every weekend and got himself drunk; day or night, if you met him, he would be drunk. If I happened across him, he would always want to shake my hand, even though I was a mere lad. “Here’s my hand and here’s my heart” he would say. If you saw him heading towards you, you knew what he was going to do and say. Sadly, for that harmless, yes, family man, that is not exactly what the bible is referring to; but then, how many of us have clean hands and a pure heart before God? How many of us are fit and clean to go into His holy place? Going into His presence for fellowship requires the correct preparation. There is the OT way, which is a pattern of the NT provision. Giving off the appearance of holiness does not fool God. Entering the presence of God was costly to the worshipper. The one who has clean hands gives expression to having a pure heart. Keep your hands clean! Don’t speak deception, and don’t bring dishonour to God’s name. The fact that the time before the Lord comes is full of deception reveals the condition of the hearts of those on earth, hearts that are not turned to the Father. Rather, they have turned away from Him. The man and woman of God will not speak falsely, or worship idols. He is their all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Having clean hands is not referring to washing them with soap and water, or covering them in sanitizer. It does not even mean the ritual hand-washing (netilyat yadayim) that the Jews do; nor the washing after a meal, known as mayim achronim. These are simply outward symbols of what should be the inner condition of hands and heart.
God desires ‘mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings’ (Hosea 6:6). God requires us to be faithful to Him. In and of ourselves, we are no hopers, but our hope, and our trust is in God. We can go into His presence, and we can have fellowship with Him without fear of rejection. We may have suffered rejection in earthly relationships, but God accepts us through His Son, Jesus Christ. “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made by hands and is not of this creation. He did not enter by the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12). Because of Jesus, brothers and sisters, we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19). This is the new and living way to enter into the presence of God (v.20). There is no other name, and no other way – He is The Way. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain of His body.…” (Ephesians 10:19-20). We ascend God’s mountain and enter God’s Holy place to speak and fellowship with the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and we do so with boldness, knowing that God loves and accepts us, because He sees Jesus.
God willing, we will continue next week.
Blessings and shalom,
Malcolm [30th March 2020]