Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
Lord God, who is worthy to enter into Thy house? Who is fit to stand in Thy presence on Zion’s holy mount?
Every sincere believer of the old dispensation was confronted with this question. Whether he lived in Jerusalem or was approaching the holy city of God from afar, he felt the need of doing some soul searching.
We can well ask ourselves today: Who of us has the right to submit his or her child to baptism, or who has the boldness to partake of the supper of our Lord?
But that raises another question: Who is worthy or fit to enter into the presence of the Lord on the Sabbath day to worship in the communion of saints under the ministry of God’s holy Word?
But then also: Who has the right to approach God in prayer? Who is worthy or has the boldness to address Him who dwells in the high and lofty place, far beyond all that is creature—the eternal, ever-blessed, adorable, living God?
At times we are so concerned with our own cares that we approach God as if He were in heaven to serve us, rather than that we are on earth to serve Him. James warns us: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3).
Do we come to the public worship service on the Sabbath day merely because of custom or habit, but not to worship? God warns Israel, “I hate, I despise your solemn feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21).
We may even partake of the Lord’s Supper without giving thought to the fact that he who eats or drinks unworthily eats and drinks condemnation unto himself, not discerning the Lord’s body (I Cor. 11:29).
But the psalmist takes every form of worship seriously. He counts it a privilege to enter into the presence of the highly exalted, living God, to abide in His presence, to worship and adore Him as God above all, who is blessed forever, but he also considers it a serious responsibility to do so with a proper attitude.
Who, O Lord, with Thee abiding, in Thy house shall be Thy guest?
The psalmist knew the answer, and so do we.
To us are entrusted the covenant and the promises, but above all the oracles of God, that is, God’s holy and infallible Word.
From that we know, as did the psalmist, that he who comes into God’s presence does not make himself guilty of backbiting, nor of slandering his neighbor. But he speaks the truth in love.
He does not seek his companionship among vile persons. He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat with the scornful. Of wicked men he says: Shall I not hate them who hate Thee, O Lord? I hate them with a perfect hatred. His friends and companions are those who fear the Lord.
When he swears to his own hurt he willingly suffers the consequences. He does not take advantage of the poor, of the widow, or of the orphan, but rather comes to their aid.
In one word, he walks uprightly, keeps God’s commandments, and works righteousness!
Yes, Lord, I know, even in the depths of my heart I know. But that gives me the more reason to ask, “Who has the right to abide in Thy tabernacle, who is fit to dwell in Thy holy hill?” Certainly not I!
When engaged in conversation, or spending a few hours in fellowship with family or friends, I find that my conversation so readily turns to criticizing or condemning my fellow saints. Gossip, backbiting, and slander are common evils that I seem to slip into almost unawares.
How much easier it is, especially to avoid trouble, to associate freely with an unbelieving neighbor who lives next door, or whom I meet in the factory, office, or business establishment. If he will be a bit careful about his language, I will be silent about my faith.
I know the second table of the law so well. I hear it read every Sunday in our church. Like the rich young ruler I am inclined to say that outwardly I have known and kept these things from my youth—but when I search my heart, that is quite another matter.
When I put my hand in my bosom, it comes out, as it were, leprous. I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor. Of myself I am incapable of any good and inclined to all evil.
What right have I, how can I lift my voice in prayer to God, to worship in the beauty of His holiness on the Lord’s day, or to partake of the sacraments that He has instituted for the strengthening of our faith.
Yes, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?
But, Jehovah, Thou knowest. And Thou hast revealed to us in Thy holy Word that there is One who does have the right and who possesses the worthiness to enter into Thy presence, to dwell with Thee in Thy eternal dwelling place.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who from all eternity was appointed for that very purpose, came in the likeness of our sinful flesh, became like unto us, yet without sin, begotten of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.
He dwelt among us, witnessing by His Word and by signs and wonders that He was given the tongue of the learned to know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.
The Lord opened His ear, and He was not rebellious, neither turned He away back. He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to those who plucked off the hair. He hid not His face from shame and spitting.
He who had no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Even in all His sufferings, bearing the torment of God’s wrath unto the dark agonies of hell, He stood the test. He had clean hands, and a pure heart. He did not lift up His soul to vanity. Nor did He swear deceitfully (Ps. 24).
He conquered all the powers of darkness: Satan, sin, death, and the grave; and He ascended to heaven for us.
At His ascension a section of the heavenly choir sang: Lift up your heads, O ye gates! And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in!
Another section asked: Who is this King of glory?
To which arose the powerful response: The Lord, strong and mighty! The Lord, mighty in battle!
He breaks into our hearts by His Spirit, makes us partakers of His new, spiritual, heavenly life. We are made new creatures in Christ. We have the gift of faith that is wrought by the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Wonder of wonders! I can say with conviction: I believe! I believe in God, the God of our salvation, and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord! And by that bond of faith and love I am united with Him forever. I am righteous in Christ and sanctified by His blood. God sees me not as I am in myself, but as a new creature in Christ.
As our Mediator our Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for us in the heavenly sanctuary on the basis of His atoning work. His prayer is heard, so that in Him we have access to, and boldness to approach, the throne of grace in prayer, to dwell in His presence in the communion of saints under the ministry of the Word, and to partake of the holy sacraments.
That explains some remarkable statements I read in the Scriptures concerning the saints of old. God says of Enoch that “he walked with God.” The same is said of Noah. Scripture speaks of Abraham as a friend of God; of Job that he was a man who “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil”; and of David that he was a man after God’s heart. Yet all these men were sinners, conceived and born in sin, even as we.
I now realize that God eternally sees us as we are in Christ, as we belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He regards us no longer as we are in ourselves, but He sees us as new creatures in Christ, clothed from head to foot in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
Now before my consciousness I stand before the judgment seat of God. The question is put to me, Are you guilty of transgressing My commandments?
I hang my head in shame: Yes, I have transgressed, not one, but all Thy commandments. I have even grossly transgressed them all.
Hast thou at some time kept any of them perfectly?
No, not one.
Will you promise henceforth to keep all My commandments?
No, I cannot, for I am still inclined to all evil.
The verdict of the Judge rings into the depths of my soul: Without any of your merit, but purely of grace, I grant and impute to you the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.
I stand before the face of God, “as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all the obedience which Christ has accomplished for me” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 23).
Lord Jehovah, through faith in the infallible truth which Thou hast sealed in my heart that I am justified and sanctified in Christ Jesus, Christ’s worthiness is mine! Christ’s fitness is mine! I can, I may, I will, I must abide in Thy tabernacle and dwell in Thy holy hill in prayer and worship!
One thing have I desired of the Lord: that I may forever dwell in the house of my God with Christ in His glory.
That will I seek after.
To behold the beauty of the Lord!
And to inquire in His temple, constantly growing in the riches of His grace even unto endless eternity.