Psalms For Life
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Yahveh Elohim hear our prayers

Psalm 24

Serving the all-glorious king

We naturally turn to God for help when nothing else works. David says we need to start with God instead since he owns us and our world and has told us how to live.

A David psalm.

The earth and everything in it
belongs to YHWH
the world and all who live in it.
2 Because he was the one
who brought up dry land
out of the surging seas
laying its foundations in the ocean streams.

3 Who can ascend YHWH’s hill?
Who can stand in his holy place?
4 Those with clean hands and pure hearts
who don’t use God’s name
to their own advantage
or take oaths to deceive.
5 They’ll receive YHWH’s blessing
and be vindicated by the God who saves them.
6 That’s what the people who seek him are like
who seek the face of Jacob’s God.  Selah

7 Lift up your heads, gateway!
Stand tall and straight
you ancient doors
so the King of glory can come in!
8 Who is the King of glory?
YHWH, strong and mighty!
YHWH, unyielding in battle!
9 Lift up your heads, gateway!
Stand tall and straight
you ancient doors
so the King of glory can come in!
10 Who is the King of glory?
YHWH, Commander of Heaven’s Armies
he is the King of glory!

David gives us three distinct but interrelated pictures here. Israel’s Canaanite neighbors claimed their god Baal brought order to creation by defeating the gods who held everything in chaos, Yamm (sea) and Nahar (river/stream). Countering that belief, David pictures YHWH as the one who gave creation its order and implicitly reigns over all—earth’s seas, its streams, and all its inhabitants included. We all answer to the owner of the cosmos.

David’s second picture relates to God’s sacred home on Zion’s holy hill, where he lives among his people. Ancient religions always focused on external, ritual purification for admission to their gods’ sanctuaries. David’s readers would have expected him to list such prerequisites here. But instead, he speaks only of moral purity of heart and hand, calling for holy, loving, and truthful living.

The next line relates to the commandment to not “take God’s name in vain.” The idea is of not hiding our moral bankruptcy behind divine namedropping, merely pretending to serve God.[1] Only those who sincerely walk the talk seek God’s face. Here David alludes to Jacob’s meeting with God when Esau was advancing to slaughter him. Jacob marvelled afterwards that he’d survived seeing God’s face. (Even the prophet Moses couldn’t see God’s face and live.) God blesses all who seek him earnestly as Jacob did.

David’s last image has him urging Jerusalem’s personified gates to open up to their divine king, returning triumphant from battle. The Israelites’ enemies aren’t just hellbent on increasing their share of the region’s pie. They’re also determined to thwart God’s purposes on earth by destroying his people. But YHWH is his people’s invincible defender.

Having described those admitted into YHWH’s presence, David turns it around, showing God seeking entrance. As earth’s creator, Zion’s divine king is irresistible. But he also respects our freedom. While we must admit him on his terms, not ours, still we must admit him: he awaits our choice. He won’t force his way in.


Though we shut you out, Jesus, and nailed you to a cross, you ascended Zion’s holy hill with perfect passion, purity, and power. Thank you for loving your creation so much that you’d redeem it at such incalculable cost. Lord, help me open my heart wide to your life-transforming glory today. Amen.

In your free moments today, meditate on these words:

Who is the King of glory?
YHWH, Commander of Heaven’s Armies
he is the King of glory!


[1] This psalm may be deemed loosely chiastic, its chiasm highlighting our need to love our divine king truly and our neighbors as ourselves: A: All belong to earth’s creator-king (vv. 1-2), B: Who can stand in YHWH’s presence? (v. 3), C: Those with clean hands and pure hearts (v. 4a), D: THOSE WHO DON’T ABUSE GOD’S NAME OR SWEAR FALSELY (v. 4b), C: These receive God’s blessing and vindication (v. 5), B: These are the people who seek God’s face (v. 6), A: All must submit to earth’s glorious king (vv. 7-10).


Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH or YHVH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and sometimes transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Likewise, all modern translations either translate or transliterate it. Some other options for translating it are “the Eternal,” “the Almighty,” or “the Sovereign Lord.”

While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it seems to me more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. This roots it more firmly in the biblical story as the name God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Meaning “the self-existent One who answers to no one,” the name YHWH set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. I’ve chosen to transliterate only YHWH’s consonants since the earliest Hebrew manuscripts contain only consonants, the vowels being added much later. My aim in doing so is to honor God’s name and set it apart, as unique.

One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it out of reverence. (They read Adonai instead whenever they come to YHWH in the text.) I take the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard, who advocated pronouncing it as Yahveh (Yah·vay). He favored that over the standard Yahweh since the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish. It also makes it sound more robust, period.

Finding strength in the ancient psalms

May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.