Psalm 24 The triumphal entry
Saul had taken little interest in the religious life of Israel. During his reign the ark of the covenant (or covenant box) remained in a country house in Kiriath-jearim. David set about correcting this state of affairs by restoring the ark, symbol of God’s presence, to its rightful place at the centre of the nation’s religious life. One of the greatest days of his life, therefore, was the day on which he brought the ark into Jerusalem (1 Sam 7:1-2; 2 Sam 6:12-19). This was probably the occasion on which Psalm 24 was first sung.
As the procession approaches the hill of the Lord (Jerusalem), a question is asked: who is able to enter the presence of the almighty Creator, Yahweh, the holy God of Israel (1-3)? The answer comes back: only those who have ‘clean hands’ in all their dealings with others and pure hearts in their loyalty to God (4; cf. 2 Sam 6:1-13; Ps 15:1-5). Such are God’s true people, and God will defend them against their opponents (5-6).
At the gate of the city the procession stops and demands entrance in the name of the king of glory (7). The gatekeepers challenge the right of the procession to enter, by asking the identity of this king of glory. They receive the reply that he is Yahweh, the almighty God of Israel who gave the nation victory over its enemies (8-10).
Whatever meaning the song may have had to the Israelites of Old Testament times, it will have added meaning if it is sung at the king of glory’s greater victory procession that is yet to come (cf. Phil 3:20-21; Rev. 19:1-8).