Readings: Psalm 24:1-10 (text); Matthew 5:8; 1 Timothy 2:8
July 19, 2015 • Download this sermon (PDF)
Dear Congregation of Christ: In Manila, there is an annual procession every January 9, when several million Filipinos commit blatant idolatry against the one true God of the Bible. They parade the wooden Black Nazarene idol around Manila for a whole day, touching, caressing, kissing and wiping it with their handkerchiefs and tears. The procession ends when the idol enters and is enshrined in one of the big Roman Catholic cathedrals in the city. The Black Nazarene was carved by a Mexican artist in the 17th century, and shipped from Acapulco to Manila. The statue depicts Jesus carrying a cross. Some people believe that the dark color was the result of a fire in the ship. But more reliable sources say that the statue was carved out of a dark Mexican hardwood called mesquite.
Roman Catholics obviously deny that they worship idols; they only “venerate” or “adore” them. But John Calvin is so spot on when he says there is no such thing as veneration–bowing down to or falling down before idols; kissing, touching, wiping handkerchiefs to be healed or prosper–without worship. But these actions, together with kneeling and bowing down before idols, are undeniably acts of worship, as in Psalm 95:6, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”
Psalm 24 was written by King David, possibly for celebrating the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem after a long procession. This procession is very different from the Black Nazarene procession. The Ark of the Covenant represents God’s dwelling-place in heaven, and not an idol that Israel worshiped.
Although at first glance, the ten verses seem disconnected, they make liturgical sense when taken as a whole. The psalmist first praises God as the Creator in verses 1-2. In verses 3-6, the worshiper in the sanctuary has to be pure and holy to enter into the presence of the Lord. Finally, in verses 7-10, as the Ark of the Covenant approaches the gate of the city, two priests, one at the head of the procession, and another at the gate, exchange a repeated liturgical challenge and response. The challenge is, “Who is this King of glory?” And the response is, “The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory.”
So our theme today, then, is “Who is the King of Glory?”: first, The Creator and Possessor of All; second, He Who is Worshiped by the Blessed; and third, He Who Sits in the Temple.
The Creator and Possessor of All
To get a clearer picture of this great event in Israel’s history, let us first go back to the days of King Saul and Eli the priest. After a big defeat at the hands of the Philistines, the elders of Israel thought that bringing the Ark with them in battle would help them defeat their enemy. Tragically, the Ark was not magic. Israel suffered even a worse defeat, resulting in the capture of the Ark and the death of Eli’s two sons. Eli, in turn, fell dead after hearing of the tragic news.
For seven months, wherever the Ark was taken, God causes plagues to fall upon the Philistines. Finally, the Philistines gave up and sent the Ark back to Israel in a place called Kiriath-jearim. It remained there through the reign of King Saul until King David brought it to Jerusalem, about 70 years total.
Read the rest of the sermon here.