Psalm 24 is a psalm written by David, King of Israel, most probably to celebrate the return of the ark from its place of storage to Jerusalem (997 BC). The ark of the covenant represented the presence of God to the people. The temple which housed the ark would later come to have the same significance. Psalm 99 speaks of God being enthroned between the cherubim. The ark was built with two cherubim (angelic beings) on each side and therefore this is another way of saying that the ark is the earthly throne of God. The first effort to bring the ark to Jerusalem was a sloppy and casual one. We are told that God became angry at the lack of reverence for that which symbolised his own presence and as a result one of the priests ‘ in whom this attitude was exemplified ‘ was struck down (see 2 Sam. 6). After this we read that David was afraid of the LORD and asked, ‘how can the ark ever come to me.’ Psalm 24 fits well as the residue of lessons learnt from this experience. When the ark was finally and successfully bought into the city it was an occasion of great celebration but also of great reverence. God was coming into Jerusalem and the words of psalm 24 serve as the anthem for the entrance of God. Of course God was already present with his people in Jerusalem and he is certainly not bound to objects or places. God is present everywhere at every moment and this truth is not being contradicted here. This occasion marked the formal entrance of Yahweh into Jerusalem. Some people feel that it is theologically contradictory to ask God to come or go anywhere as if God were a finite being who need to travel anywhere. The problem with this sort of objection is that the bible is filled with references to God in human terms and using human imagery, all of which in some way contradict the infiniteness of his being. The fact that God allows us to speak of him is an act of great condescension since human language necessarily contradicts the ineffability of God. We speak of one who is beyond description and therefore by our words we always describe God as infinitely less than he is. But God allows us to use anthropomorphisms (describing God in human terms) in our speaking about him and indeed he has described himself to us largely in terms of human analogy. The scriptures say things like, ‘the arm of God is mighty to save.’ Now we know that God does not have arms but we use these terms to describe the indescribable God. Likewise when we say that ‘God came into our meeting’ we are not denying the omnipresence of God we are simply using human terms to describe an indescribable divine action. This psalm celebrates the entry of God into Jerusalem. God’s presence was symbolised by the ark and therefore it was an occasion of great joy but also, as I have said, of great reverence.
The psalm begins with an acknowledgement of who God is (verses 1-2). He is the creator of all things. The next logical step is the question as to who may come before such a holy and mighty God. The character of the such a person is described then in verses 1-5. The person who does come before God will be blessed indeed.
Then comes the great chorus (verses 7-10). That the mighty gates of Jerusalem should lift up their heads to allow the King to enter in is a wonderful poetic way of exclaiming the greatness of the divine King. He is the King of glory, but note how he is described here when it is asked who is this King of glory. He is Yahweh (the special covenant name for God ‘ indicated in the NIV as LORD) strong and mighty in Battle. God is described as a warrior King. He is the God of battle waging war against his enemies for the extension of his kingdom.