Psalm 24: Jesus is Lord of all Creation

Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century. All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880… the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and all 10 of the warmest years occurred in the past 12 years. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. NASA data show Greenland is losing between 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice every year. Antarctica is losing another 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice per year.[1] The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC (2,500 of the world’s top climate scientists) predicts temperature rises of between 1.5°C and 4.8°C by the end of this century. If global warming of more than 2°C is not avoided, impacts from extreme weather will lead to significant food shortages, large-scale migration and inevitable wars and conflict.[2]

But not everyone is convinced. Dave Bookless in Planetwise writes,

“Many people say climate change is the biggest threat our world faces today. I beg to differ. Its not that I doubt the scientific consensus on the threats posed by melting ice-caps, changing weather systems and warming oceans. Nor am I blind to the terrible effects these … are already having, on wildlife, the poor, and ultimately all of us. The reason is this: Climate change is a symptom of a far bigger problem. Imagine if… science had discovered a ‘cure’ for climate change: a magical solution to absorb all the excess greenhouse gases. Imagine that the … clock was turned back … 200 years of industrial pollution were no longer going to cause ice-caps to melt, oceans to expand, forests and coral reefs to die and hundreds of millions of people to be forced to migrate. Would we then have a perfect world with no environmental problems? Sadly… ‘no’. Forests would still be destroyed, oceans over-fished, resources over-exploited… Dangerous pesticides and chemicals would still be causing huge problems to ecosystems and human health. People in rich nations would still be consuming enormous amounts of the earth’s resources and living energy-hungry lifestyles, while those in poor countries would struggle just as hard to find food and water… Climate change is simply the most obvious symptom of a much, much deeper sickness… we have got our relationship with the planet all wrong… we have been living in a way that simply cannot continue. We cannot solve this problem simply by better technology and a few hard political choices. It goes deeper than that, right to the heart of who we are. We need to rethink not just how we treat the planet and its creatures, but who on earth we think we are as human beings.”[3]

Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry said it was our biblical “duty” to confront climate change.

“Our faiths are inextricably linked on the environment. For many of us, respect for God’s creation also translates into a duty to protect and sustain his first creation, Earth, the planet. Confronting climate change is, in the long run, one of the greatest challenges that we face, and you can see this duty or responsibility laid out in Scriptures clearly, beginning in Genesis. And Muslim-majority countries are among the most vulnerable. Our response to this challenge ought to be rooted in a sense of stewardship of Earth, and for me and for many of us here today, that responsibility comes from God”.[4]

Jesus and Creation Psalm 24 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

That is why over the next four weeks, leading up to our Harvest celebration, we are going to discover our biblical responsibility by examining what the scriptures teach about Jesus and Creation. Please turn with me to Psalm 24 which I have entitled “Jesus is Lord of all Creation”. God has created us with meaning and purpose, with dignity and value – in His image. But for what? – We inhabit a world designed, created, nurtured and sustained by Almighty God, to whom we are accountable for the way we steward His good earth.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas
 and established it on the waters. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
 Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
 who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:1-4)

How is the Lord revealed in Psalm 24?

  • He is God the Owner (24:1)
  • He is God the Creator (24:2)
  • He is God the Holy one, high and lifted up (24:3)
  • He is God our Saviour (24:5)
  • He is God the Lord (24:5)
  • He is the God who blesses (24:5)
  • He is the God of history (24:6)
  • He is strong and mighty (24:8)
  • He is the King of Glory (24:9)
  • He is the Almighty (24:10)

The attributes of Almighty God seep from every verse of this short, beautiful Psalm.

“He is the owner of planet earth and all it contains: the atmosphere and the oceans, the mineral resources and the wildlife. Yet he has given us the use of this world as stewards and caretakers. Margaret Thatcher once said, “No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy – with a full repairing lease.” This earth belongs to God and we are responsible to him for how we use and leave it. Or to be more precise it belongs to Jesus.”[5] As we read in Colossians 1,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.’ (Colossians 1:15-17, 20)

  •  Jesus is the Source of Creation “in him all things were created” (1:15)
  • Jesus is the Sustainer of Creation “in him all things hold together” (1:17)
  • Jesus is the Saviour of Creation “to reconcile to himself all things… on earth…” (1:20)

“The whole of creation is for Jesus, not for us. Why does the universe exist? It exists for Jesus. Why do the ice-caps and the rainforests, the Sahara desert and the Russian steppes exist? They exist for Jesus. What is the purpose of the blue whale, the Bengal tiger, the Pacific salmon, the hose sparrow, a human being? There are all created by and for Jesus Christ, and they find their purpose in him. This has huge implications when we think about how we use the earth’s resources. We cannot use up the oil and gas without remembering they were made for Christ. We must take great care in experimenting with genetic modifications to species or large-scale changes to habitats, recognising we are answerable to God. We must not destroy forests or use up the fish in the seas – because God cares about them, and wants us to leave healthy stocks for others. … We must treat creation with great respect, as an expression of God’s character and as a possession of Jesus.”[6]

Making sense of our responsibility begins by asking the right questions. And the right question is asked in Psalm24:3.

  1. The Question Asked

    “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” (Psalm 24:3).

Three observations implicit in this journey.

This is an Upward Path “Who may ascend the hill?”
This is an Inhabited Path “the hill of the Lord?
This is a Sacred Path “Who may stand in his Holy place?”

This is His earth. His presence makes it holy. The words that best describes this journey or quest are transcendence, metamorphosis, sanctification. And that is the path we are called to take. A path of holiness, demonstrating the character of God, modelling the actions of God, stewarding the creation of God and caring for the people of God. The question asked.

  1. The Conditions Given
    Four things are needed to ascend the hill of the LORD.

“The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
 who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:4)

Four simple conditions that define your calling as a Christ follower: Clean hands. Pure heart. Devoted soul. Honest motives. The first two are intimately connected. The term “clean hands” is a neat illustration.

At any given time your hands can have millions of bacteria crawling all over them. Right now you have more bacteria on your body than there are people in the world. Our hands are the hardest things to keep clean, because we use our hands to open doors and shake hands, to touch things we maybe shouldn’t and then we put them in our mouths. We use them to clean ourselves with and then we eat with them – so no wonder we get funny tummies sometimes. Yet our hands also affect our hearts and minds as well as our stomachs. We use our hands to choose the TV channels. To open books and magazines. To pick up the phone. Our hands and our hearts our intimately connected. They either help us ascend into God’s presence or they lead us downward, out of God’s will. The hands are only motivated by what is within – from our heart. So we need clean hands AND a clean heart. David defines that by adding, “who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.” (Psalm 24:4)

God demands our exclusive worship, devotion and service. We cannot serve both God and money. We cannot steward this earth for God and selfishly plunder it for ourselves, at the same time. Which is why, if the Psalm finished there we would never be able to enter God’s sanctuary. There is no way that alone, we can stand in the presence of holiness.

It is as if we are standing at the bottom Mount Snowdon with two broken legs, with two fifty pound weights strapped to our arms, and with dirty hands that can’t grip anything. Like Jack and Jill, we may try to get up the hill to fetch a crown of glory, but in our own strength, we will fall down and break our crowns. The hill is too steep. So we have not only the question asked and the conditions given. But thirdly,

  1. The Blessings Assured

“They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Saviour. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God” (Psalm 24:5-6)

We don’t have the hands or the heart to enter God’s presence. We need someone with more wisdom and greater strength to climb the hill of God’s presence. We need a Saviour! And so the Psalm continues,

“Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory..” (Psalm 24:7-10)
This is why Psalm 24, like Psalm 22 and like Psalm 23, is talking about the Lord Jesus, the Lord of all creation.

Jerusalem is up on a hill. When you enter it from the south, east or west, there is a steep incline leading up to it. On the Eastern side, overlooking the Kidron Valley and the Mount of Olives is the Golden Gate. It is blocked now but was open at the time of Jesus when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Many people had entered Jerusalem through this gate. But none of them had clean hands or a pure heart. When Jesus entered through these gates, the prayer of David was answered. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. ‘The crowds shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” But Jesus was not done climbing the mountain. He was only just beginning the ascent. He still had to climb another hill – called Golgotha. It was on that cross that Jesus pure hands were nailed, smeared with our impurity. His heart was stabbed by the spear of our sins. God would accept no other sacrifice – than that of a pure Lamb – to enter into that Holy Place. When Jesus went to the cross, he took us with Him. He exchanged our sinfulness for his holiness. He gave us the pure heart and cleansed hands we need to enter God’s presence, we need to identify with how he feels about his creation, and take responsibility for our part in it.

Application

In March this year, Time magazine ran an article “What 10 Things Should You Do Every Day To Improve Your Life?” Want to know what scientists tell is the most significant things you can do to improve your life? Before exercise (which came 2nd)? Before spending more time with your family (which came 3rd)? The most significant thing you can do daily to improve your life is “Get out in nature” Time says “You probably seriously underestimate how important this is. (Actually, there’s research that says you do.) Being in nature reduces stress, makes you more creative, improves your memory and may even make you a better person.” When Jesus wanted to be with His Father, where did he go? Not the Temple or the Synagogue. No, he went into the desert, to the mountains, to the garden. If you want to be more like Jesus, get back to nature. Appreciate God’s creation, respect God’s creation and take responsibility for God’s creation – and your footprint on it.

So, take your shoes off and take a moment to examine your footprint. Compare it with the footsteps of Jesus, and the role we are meant to play in God’s creation. We were created in God’s image with moral choice and the gift of creativity, in order to take responsibility for his world. He is the Sustainer, but we are his stewards, serving and preserving the earth.

The creation narrative says

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2;15).

The former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said that in the original Hebrew, these two verbs are technical terms designated for specific types of responsibility. The word translated as “to work” in fact means “to serve”. The verb translated as “take care of” has the legal sense of guardianship. So how does this impact your Christian service? Do you see it as part of your Christian service? We have so many creative opportunities to be imaginative and minimise the negative impact of our footprint. All it takes is a few steps.

We can for example, purposefully walk, cycle and use public transport more than ever before or car share. We will cause less pollution, but actually have more time to spend with God as we travel. We can also recycle more. We can all buy more local food produce in season. What about solar panels, switch off electrical devises at night, replace light bulbs with energy efficient alternatives – or how about just going to bed when it gets dark like our ancestors? If you want more ideas, here are some resources I would recommend:

Dave Bookless, Planetwise: Dare to care for God’s world (IVP)
John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today (IVP)
The Green Bible (Harper Collins)

“They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Saviour. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God” (Psalm 24:5-6)

When David looked at this world, he compared it to an uphill struggle. God never said life would be easy. But many times, it seems like we’re at the bottom of the mountain. Like I said that the beginning, the temptation is to think the main problem is climate change, or global warming, or diminishing resources, or the Islamic State, or China, or the economy, or your boss, or your neighbours. We can always find someone else to blame and do nothing. But the problem is deeper isn’t it? You know it is. And you know the answer as well, don’t you?

“They will receive blessing from the Lord
… who seek your face, O God” (Psalm 24:5-6)

Are you experiencing God’s blessing? Are you seeking God’s face? His wisdom? His guidance? The mountain of climate change is indeed high. Who May Ascend the Hill of the LORD? The King of Glory has come and answered it – not just with words – but with actions. Jesus rode into Jerusalem to die in your place. And so when David asks, “who may ascend the hill of the LORD?” you know the answer. You may. And you will – if you hold firmly onto the strong hand of Christ our Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Friend.

Lets pray.

 

 

 

[1] http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/23/climate-change-carbon-emissions-ipcc-extreme-weather

[3] Dave Bookless, Planetwise, (IVP, 2008), pp.11-12.

[4] http://freebeacon.com/issues/kerry-scripture-says-u-s-should-protect-muslim-countries-against-global-warming/

[5] Bookless, op. cit., p. 30.

[6] ibid.,

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