Receiving His Blessing
(H) Of David, a psalm. (1) The earth is Yahweh’s and everything in it, the world and all who dwell in it, (2) for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (3) Who shall ascend the hill of Yahweh, and who shall stand in his holy place? (4) He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false nor does he take an oath deceitfully. (5) He will receive blessing from Yahweh and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (6) Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
These opening six verses present us with two areas of focus. It is as if David has been using a camera with interchangeable lenses. First, with his wide angle lens, he gives us a panoramic view considering the earth and everything it contains, all belonging to Yahweh because he created it (vss. 1 & 2). Then, he switches to his telephoto lens in order to zoom in on those individuals who are seeking a meaningful relationship with their creator (vs. 3). In this second segment, David first asks the “who” question: “Who may enter into such a relationship with God” (vs. 3)? Immediately, he answers by indicating that such a relationship requires spiritual purity on the part of the seeker (vs. 4).
We then are faced with another question which David never specifically articulates: how can sinful humans ever become holy enough to ascend Yahweh’s hill and stand in his presence? This holiness must be “received” from Yahweh as a “blessing” (vs. 5). Not only is Yahweh the creator of all things, he is also “the God of our salvation” who supplies us with the righteousness we need to stand in his presence.
David closes this segment with the statement, “Such is the generation of those who seek him” (vs. 6). In other words, only those who have received Yahweh’s blessing, the “gift of righteousness from God,” will seek him, that is, desire to enter into close relationship with the one who both created and redeemed them.
I. Statement: everything belongs to Yahweh. (1 & 2)
II. Stipulation: only the righteous can fellowship with him. (3-6)
Yahweh, our creator, will provide for those who seek him the gift of righteousness that enables us to enter into fellowship with him.
One of the most widely held misunderstandings regarding the Old Testament is that it teaches salvation is achieved by keeping the law, that is, through good works. Paul demolished that myth in Romans 4 when he demonstrated that Abraham, long before the law had been given, had been justified by his personal faith, not by his works. This psalm provides us with yet another instance in the Old Testament where salvation by faith, not by works, is strongly indicated.
Note how David does this. First, he raises the issue of fellowship with God by asking the “who” question (vs. 3). He then answers that question by showing that we must be holy to be in relationship with a holy God, leaving us to wonder how we could ever achieve such a state of perfection (vs. 4). Immediately, he provides the answer to this dilemma by using the key word “receive” (vs. 5). Such righteousness can never be achieved by our own efforts. God’s holiness is a perfection far too high for sinful human beings to attain by personal effort. Instead, righteousness must be received as a gift from the God of our salvation. In Paul’s terminology, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Tit. 3:5).
In both Old and New Testaments, Yahweh’s grace received by faith is set forth as the only way to acquire the righteousness necessary to enter into fellowship with him. The moment we entertain the idea that we can earn our salvation by keeping the law, we are confronted with the impossibility of attaining such perfection by our own inadequacies. Salvation has always been by grace, “the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8 & 9).