The Heart of Worship

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” (Ps. 24:3-4, ESV).

The phrase, “lift up his soul,” in v. 4, implies an attitude of the heart. The one who can stand on the holy hill is he whose heart is disinclined to  falsehood. Conversely, it is he whose heart is “lifted up” to God. His heart is bound to God and not to false things.[1] His heart is held captive to God and not to anything that goes against the character of God.

The New Jewish Publication Society version says, “who has not taken a false oath by My life” (Ps. 24:4, NJPS). Thus, to not lift up the soul to falsehood means, conversely, to be faithful to God and the truth.

The pure heart also does not swear deceitfully (v. 4). The word, “deceitfully” (Heb. mirma), is used for speech. Ps. 10:7, “His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.” Thus, to not swear deceitfully is to be faithful to one’s neighbor.[2]

Who then can climb on the holy hill of God? It is he who does not desire falsehood before God. It is he who does not desire falsehood before his neighbor. It is he who is faithful to God and faithful to his neighbor. He so desires God that he is disinclined to deception. He is so inclined to God that he no longer desires deceit.

In v. 5, he shall receive blessing and righteousness from God. The blessing is righteousness. The righteousness he desires is what he receives.

We learn an important principle in worship at this point. To truly worship a holy God is to come to Him with a pure heart, desiring God alone, and rejecting anything contradicting His character—falsehood and empty things. Otherwise, our worship is empty and false.[3]

In line with the thought of Ps. 24, Amos 5:21-24 sounds like an indictment against our worship today.

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies [Sunday worship?]. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings [Sunday offerings?], I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs [Praise and Worship?]; to the melody of your harps I will not listen [Guitars and Drums?]. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”

[1] Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 (WBC 19 ; ed. John D. W. Watts; Dallas: Word, 1983), 213.

[2] Mays, Psalms, 122.

[3] Mays, Psalms, 122.


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