Many scholars believe that the twenty-fourth psalm was written by David to celebrate the arrival of the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital, Jerusalem. When you read 1 Chronicles 13 and 15 and see the great amount of singing and worshipping going on, and then read the words to this psalm, that supposition makes good sense, and the ancient writings of the rabbis attest to it as well.
However, even here at the beginning of the psalm David sees a danger in settling this manifestation of God’s presence in one location—the people would be tempted to think that God was stuck there, that He did not reign over the rest of the earth, much less any other people. So he begins this psalm with the passage above to remind them that God could not be put in a literal box, and certainly not in a figurative box of one’s own expectations and understanding. God made the whole world, and therefore rules the whole world and every person on it.
David was right to be so concerned. Ezekiel spent several of his opening chapters trying to get the same point across to the captives in Babylon by the canal Chebar, who believed that God was no longer with them, but still back in Jerusalem. He is right here with you, Ezekiel told them. That is the point of that amazing vision in chapter one—God can be anywhere at any time.
Do you think we don’t have the same problem? We keep trying to put God in a box called a church building or a meetinghouse or whatever your own bias leans toward calling it. That’s why we have people who compartmentalize their religion. They think “church” is all about what happens at the building, and the change in their behavior when they leave that building is the proof of it.
A man who can recite the “plan of salvation” in Bible class will cheat his customers to his own gain during the week.
A woman who can quote proof texts verbatim on Sunday morning will turn around and gossip over the phone every other day of the week.
A couple who appears every time the door is opened will carry on a running feud with a neighbor and treat each other as if none of the passages in the New Testament apply to anyone with the same last name.
What? God asked His people. Will you act like the heathen around you six days a week “and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations?” Jer 7:10. David used the middle of this psalm to remind the people who was fit to come before the presence of the LORD—only men of holiness, honesty, and integrity, not just on the Sabbath, but always.
Because they put God in a box called after the covenant He made with them, they thought that their behavior only counted in His presence, forgetting the lessons that both David and Solomon had tried to teach them—God cannot be confined to anything manmade, not even the most magnificent Temple ever built by men, much less a comparatively miniscule box. As David proclaimed in finishing Psalm 24, Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!...The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! — Selah.
Selah--pause, and feel the impact.
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation, Psa 24:3-5.