Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 24
on the Whole Bible
This psalm is concerning the kingdom of Jesus Christ,
I. His providential kingdom, by which he rules the world,
II. The kingdom of his grace, by which he rules in his church.
1. Concerning the subjects of that kingdom; their character
2. Concerning the King of that kingdom; and a summons to all to give
It is supposed that the psalm was penned upon occasion of David's
bringing up the ark to the place prepared for it, and that the
intention of it was to lead the people above the pomp of external
ceremonies to a holy life and faith in Christ, of whom the ark was a
|God's Absolute Propriety.
A psalm of David.
1 The earth is the LORD's, and the
fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon
I. God's absolute propriety in this part of the creation where our lot
We are not to think that the heavens, even the heavens only, are the
Lord's, and the numerous and bright inhabitants of the upper world, and
that this earth, being so small and inconsiderable a part of the
creation, and at such a distance from the royal palace above, is
neglected, and that he claims no interest in it. No, even the earth is
his, and this lower world; and, though he has prepared the throne of
his glory in the heavens, yet his kingdom rules over all, and even the
worms of this earth are not below his cognizance, nor from under his
1. When God gave the earth to the children of men he still reserved to
himself the property, and only let it out to them as tenants, or
usufructuaries: The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof.
The mines that are lodged in the bowels of it, even the richest, the
fruits it produces, all the beasts of the forest and the cattle upon a
thousand hills, our lands and houses, and all the improvements that are
made of this earth by the skill and industry of man, are all his. These
indeed, in the kingdom of grace, are justly looked upon as emptiness;
for they are vanity of vanities, nothing to a soul; but, in the kingdom
of providence, they are fulness. The earth is full of God's riches,
so is the great and wide sea also. All the parts and regions of the
earth are the Lord's, all under his eye, all in his hand: so that,
wherever a child of God goes, he may comfort himself with this, that he
does not go off his Father's ground. That which falls to our share of
the earth and its productions is but lent to us; it is the Lord's; what
is our own against all the world is not so against his claims. That
which is most remote from us, as that which passes through the paths of
the sea, or is hidden in the bottom of it, is the Lord's and he knows
where to find it.
2. The habitable part of this earth
is his in a special manner--the world and those that dwell
therein. We ourselves are not our own, our bodies, our souls, are
not. All souls are mine, says God; for he is the former of our
bodies and the Father of our spirits. Our tongues are not our own; they
are to be at his service. Even those of the children of men that know
him not, nor own their relation to him, are his. Now this comes in here
to show that, though God is graciously pleased to accept the devotions
and services of his peculiar chosen people
it is not because he needs them, or can be benefited by them, for the
earth is his and all in it,
It is likewise to be applied to the dominion Christ has, as Mediator,
over the utmost parts of the earth, which are given him for his
possession: the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into
his hand, power over all flesh. The apostle quotes this scripture twice
together in his discourse about things offered to idols,
1 Corinthians 10:26,28.
"If it be sold in the shambles, eat it, and ask no questions; for
the earth is the Lord's; it is God's good creature, and you have a
right to it. But, if one tell you it was offered to an idol, forbear,
for the earth is the Lord's, and there is enough besides." This
is a good reason why we should be content with our allotment in this
world, and not envy others theirs; the earth is the Lord's, and
may he not do what he will with his own, and give to some more of it,
to others less, as it pleases him?
II. The ground of this propriety. The earth is his by an indisputable
title, for he hath founded it upon the seas and established
it upon the floods,
It is his; for,
1. He made it, formed it, founded it, and fitted it for the use of man.
The matter is his, for he made it out of nothing; the form is his, for
he made it according to the eternal counsels and ideas of his own mind.
He made it himself, he made it for himself; so that he is sole, entire,
and absolute owner, and none can let us a title to any part, but by,
from, and under him; see
2. He made it so as no one else could. It is the creature of
omnipotence, for it is founded upon the seas, upon the floods, a weak
and unstable foundation (one would think) to build the earth upon, and
yet, if almighty power please, it shall serve to bear the weight of
this earth. The waters which at first covered the earth, and rendered
it unfit to be a habitation for man, were ordered under it, that the
dry land might appear, and so they are as a foundation to it; see
3. He continues it, he has established it, fixed it, so that,
though one generation passes and another comes, the earth abides,
And his providence is a continued creation,
The founding of the earth upon the floods should remind us how slippery
and uncertain all earthly things are; their foundation is not only
sand, but water; it is therefore our folly to build upon them.
|The Character of True Israelites.
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall
stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not
lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and
righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy
face, O Jacob. Selah.
From this world, and the fulness thereof, the psalmist's meditations
rise, of a sudden to the great things of another world, the foundation
of which is not on the seas, nor on the floods. The things of this
world God has given to the children of men and we are much indebted to
his providence for them; but they will not make a portion for us. And
I. Here is an enquiry after better things,
This earth is God's footstool; but, if we had ever so much of it, we
must be here but a while, must shortly go hence, and Who then shall
ascend into the hill of the Lord? Who shall go to heaven hereafter,
and, as an earnest of that, shall have communion with God in holy
ordinances now? A soul that knows and considers its own nature,
origin, and immortality, when it has viewed the earth and the fulness
thereof, will sit down unsatisfied; there is not found among all the
creatures a help meet for man, and therefore it will think of ascending
towards God, towards heaven, will ask, "What shall I do to rise to that
high place, that hill, where the Lord dwells and manifests himself,
that I may be acquainted with him, and to abide in that happy holy
place where he meets his people and makes them holy and happy? What
shall I do that I may be of those whom God owns for his peculiar people
and who are his in another manner than the earth is his and its
fulness?" This question is much the same with that,
The hill of Zion on which the temple was built typified the church,
both visible and invisible. When the people attended the ark to its
holy place David puts them in mind that these were but patterns of
heavenly things, and therefore that by them they should be led to
consider the heavenly things themselves.
II. An answer to this enquiry, in which we have,
1. The properties of God's peculiar people, who shall have communion
with him in grace and glory.
(1.) They are such as keep themselves from all the gross acts of sin.
They have clean hands; not spotted with the pollutions of the
world and the flesh. None that were ceremonially unclean might enter
into the mountain of the temple, which signified that cleanness of
conversation which is required in all those that have fellowship with
God. The hands lifted up in prayer must be pure hands, no blot of
unjust gain cleaving to them, nor any thing else that defiles the man
and is offensive to the holy God.
(2.) They are such as make conscience of being really (that is, of
being inwardly) as good as they seem to be outwardly. They have pure
hearts. We make nothing of our religion if we do not make
heart-work of it. It is not enough that our hands be clean before men,
but we must also wash our hearts from wickedness, and not allow
ourselves in any secret heart-impurities, which are open before the eye
of God. Yet in vain do those pretend to have pure and good hearts whose
hands are defiled with the acts of sin. That is a pure heart which is
sincere and without guile in covenanting with God, which is carefully
guarded, that the wicked one, the uncle an spirit, touch it not, which
is purified by faith, and conformed to the image and will of God; see
(3.) They are such as do not set their affections upon the things of
this world, do not lift up their souls unto vanity, whose hearts
are not carried out inordinately towards the wealth of this world, the
praise of men, or the delights of sense, who do not choose these things
for their portion, nor reach forth after them, because they believe
them to be vanity, uncertain and unsatisfying.
(4.) They are such as deal honestly both with God and man. In their
covenant with God, and their contracts with men, they have not sworn
deceitfully, nor broken their promises, violated their engagements, nor
taken any false oath. Those that have no regard to the obligations of
truth or the honour of God's name are unfit for a place in God's holy
(5.) They are a praying people
This is the generation of those that seek him. In every age
there is a remnant of such as these, men of this character, who are
accounted to the Lord for a generation,
And they are such as seek God, that seek they face, O Jacob!
[1.] They join themselves to God, to seek him, not only in earnest
prayer, but in serious endeavours to obtain his favour and keep
themselves in his love. Having made it the summit of their happiness,
they make it the summit of their ambition to be accepted of him, and
therefore take care and pains to approve themselves to him. It is to
the hill of the Lord that we must ascend, and, the way being up-hill,
we have need to put forth ourselves to the utmost, as those that seek
[2.] They join themselves to the people of God, to seek God with them.
Being brought into communion with God, they come into communion of
saints; conforming to the patterns of the saints that have gone before
(so some understand this), they seek God's face, as Jacob (so some),
who was therefore surnamed Israel, because he wrestled
with God and prevailed, sought him and found him; and, associating with
the saints of their own day, they shall court the favour of God's
shall be glad of an acquaintance with God's people
shall incorporate themselves with them, and, when they subscribe
with their hands to the Lord, shall call themselves by the name
As soon as ever Paul was converted he joined himself to the
They shall seek God's face in Jacob (so some), that is, in the
assemblies of his people. Thy face, O God of Jacob! so our
margin supplies it, and makes it easy. As all believers are the
spiritual seed of Abraham, so all that strive in prayer are the
spiritual seed of Jacob, to whom God never said, Seek you me in
2. The privileges of God's peculiar people,
They shall be made truly and for ever happy.
(1.) They shall be blessed: they shall receive the blessing from the
Lord, all the fruits and gifts of God's favour, according to his
promise; and those whom God blesses are blessed indeed, for it is his
prerogative to command the blessing.
(2.) They shall be justified and sanctified. These are the spiritual
blessings in heavenly things which they shall receive, even
righteousness, the very thing they hunger and thirst after,
Righteousness is blessedness, and it is from God only that we must
expect it, for we have no righteousness of our own. They shall receive
the reward of their righteousness (so some), the crown of
righteousness which the righteous Judge shall give,
2 Timothy 4:8.
(3.) They shall be saved; for God himself will be the God of their
salvation. Note, Where God gives righteousness he certainly designs
salvation. Those that are made meet for heaven shall be brought safely
to heaven, and then they will find what they have been seeking, to
their endless satisfaction.
7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye
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 ye gates; even lift them up, ye
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.
What is spoken once is spoken a second time in these verses; such
repetitions are usual in songs, and have much beauty in them. Here is,
1. Entrance once and again demanded for the King of glory; the doors
and gates are to be thrown open, thrown wide open, to give him
admission, for behold he stands at the door and knocks, ready to come
2. Enquiry once and again made concerning this mighty prince, in whose
name entrance is demanded: Who is this King of glory? As, when
any knock at our door, it is common to ask, Who is there?
3. Satisfaction once and again given concerning the royal person that
makes the demand: It is the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord,
mighty in battle, the Lord of hosts,
I. This splendid entry here described it is probable refers to the
solemn bringing in of the ark into the tent David pitched for it or the
temple Solomon built for it; for, when David prepared materials for the
building of it, it was proper for him to prepare a psalm for the
dedication of it. The porters are called upon to open the doors, and
they are called everlasting doors, because much more durable
than the door of the tabernacle, which was but a curtain. They are
taught to ask, Who is this King of glory? And those that bore
the ark are taught to answer in the language before us, and very fitly,
because the ark was a symbol or token of God's presence,
Or it may be taken as a poetical figure designed to represent the
subject more affectingly. God, in his word and ordinances, is thus to
be welcomed by us,
1. With great readiness: the doors and gates must be thrown open to
him. Let the word of the Lord come into the innermost and uppermost
place in our souls; and, if we had 600 necks, we should bow them all to
the authority of it.
2. With all reverence, remembering how great a God he is with whom we
have to do, in all our approaches to him.
II. Doubtless it points at Christ, of whom the ark, with the
mercy-seat, was a type.
1. We may apply it to the ascension of Christ into heaven and the
welcome given to him there. When he had finished his work on earth he
ascended in the clouds of heaven,
The gates of heaven must then be opened to him, those doors that may be
truly called everlasting, which had been shut against us, to
keep the way of the tree of life,
Our Redeemer found them shut, but, having by his blood made atonement
for sin and gained a title to enter into the holy place
as one having authority, he demanded entrance, not for himself only,
but for us; for, as the forerunner, he has for us entered and opened
the kingdom of heaven to all believers. The keys not only of hell
and death, but of heaven and life, must be put into his hand. His
approach being very magnificent, the angels are brought in asking,
Who is this King of glory? For angels keep the gates of the New
When the first-begotten was brought into the upper world the angels
were to worship him
and accordingly, they here ask with wonder, "Who is he?--this that
cometh with dyed garments from Bozrah?
for he appears in that world as a Lamb that had been slain." It
is answered that he is strong and mighty, mighty in battle, to
save his people and subdue his and their enemies.
2. We may apply it to Christ's entrance into the souls of men by his
word and Spirit, that they may be his temples. Christ's presence in
them is like that of the ark in the temple; it sanctifies them.
Behold, he stands at the door and knocks,
It is required that the gates and doors of the heart be opened to him,
not only as admission is given to a guest, but as possession is
delivered to the rightful owner, after the title has been contested.
This is the gospel call and demand, that we let Jesus Christ, the King
of glory, come into our souls, and welcome him with hosannas,
Blessed is he that cometh. That we may do this aright we are
concerned to ask, Who is this King of glory?--to acquaint
ourselves with him, whom we are to believe in, and to love above all.
And the answer is ready: He is Jehovah, and will be Jehovah
our righteousness, an all-sufficient Saviour to us, if we give him
entrance and entertainment. He is strong and mighty, and the
Lord of hosts; and therefore it is at our peril if we deny him
entrance; for he is able to avenge the affront; he can force his way,
and can break those in pieces with his iron rod that will not submit to
his golden sceptre.
In singing this let our hearts cheerfully answer to this call, as it is
in the first words of the next psalm, Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift
up my soul.