The ANE was a place filled with deities, spirits, and mythologies all clamoring for allegiance, devotion and worship. The land was carved up by the nations, each with their own local deity and story substantiating that particular deities “rights” to that nations plot of land. These deities were often crowned King as a result of their victories over other deities.
But in the 24th Psalm we do not have one deity among many clamoring for His own piece of land. We do not see a deity beholden to a specific ethnic group. Nor do we have a God who is fighting other deities in an attempt to jockey for supremacy amongst the nations.
Rather, we have Yahweh, the Lord of the entire cosmos and all the inhabitants thereof. He refuses to share his creation with anyone. He will not allow allegiances to be paid to the neighboring gods, He refuses to acknowledge the authority of the surrounding mythologies, and He refuses to let humanity find genuine meaning in anything other than Himself.
The breakdown of this Psalm falls into three parts
1. Vs. 1-2 Where Yahweh’s sovereign ownership of the entire world is confessed and substantiated.
2. Vs. 3-6 Where the Psalmist lays forth the requirements of those who wish to approach Yahweh and the blessings given to the one is worthy.
3. And Vs. 7-9 (the climax of the psalm) where an ancient liturgical formula of Call-and-Response is employed to exalt Yahweh as a King as the ark enters Jerusalem. The entirety of the Psalm is really to be interpreted as an exaltation of Yahweh’s kingship, his narrative of creation, and his redemptive purposes that involved the defeat of all other claims to allegiance.
Vs. 1 The earth is the Lord’s and Everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
The central proposition of this verse is that every inch of created space has a stamp on it that bears Yahweh’s name. He has written His name on every tree, every unborn child, every terrorist, politician (sigh!), and every codgery old person in your church. He has placed his name on them and said one word – MINE, MINE, MINE!
He will not share his sovereignty with competing nations (America or otherwise!). He will not share his sovereignty with competing narratives (the American Dream or otherwise!). He will not share his sovereignty with competing deities. And he will not share his sovereignty Christians who assume God is on their side, their own little marionette to be jerked around at their every political whim.
No, in fact, in this verse there is a movement from general (world) to particular (the inhabitants of the world). Though Yahweh could care nothing for our notions of private property He cares even less for our assumptions about ownership when it comes to people. It is not dictators, presidents, or even pastors who own the souls of men and women – it is Yahweh and Yahweh alone. We are not permitted to oppress, subjugate, or manipulate either the creation or the inhabitants of creation because none of it is ours and they are not ‘our’ people.
Do you see the soteriological implications? If Yahweh is the Kingly owner over all creation and its inhabitants then there is no segment of creation that is beyond redemption – be they homosexuals, democrats, terrorists, or even that old codger in the back row of every church I’ve ever been to. And despite our lack of faith, let’s forget this nonsense of “giving up” on folks because they’re our enemies or b/c they don’t like our political agenda. “Giving up” on their redemption was never God’s ordained means of bring them to redemption!
And though it may not seem like it on the surface, vs. 2 exactly about that redemption, for the Psalmist substantiates the claim of Yahweh’s sovereignty – but in an odd sort of way…but we’re going to save that for next time.