What does Psalm 24:4 mean?
ESV: 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.
NIV: The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.
NASB: One who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to deceit And has not sworn deceitfully.
CSB: The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully.
NLT: Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.
KJV: He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
NKJV: He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.
Verse Commentary:
The answer to the question posed in verse 3 is given here. Proper worship of God requires clean hands, a pure heart, and integrity. A person cannot truly worship God unless they are submitted to Him in faith, and that submission cannot occur until they have been redeemed by salvation. The question is not whether or not a person is capable of singing or saying words; it's whether their efforts are appropriate.

The Levites who transported the ark had to be ceremonially clean, as did the priests. Exodus 30:18–21 instructs Aaron, the high priest, and his sons to wash their hands and feet at the laver in the tabernacle before ministering to the Lord. Isaiah 52:11 commands: "Purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the LORD."

Having "clean hands" refers to the performance of righteous deeds, as well as avoidance of evil deeds. This imagery is reflected in modern English expressions such as "willing to get his hands dirty," which implies someone willing to do evil to accomplish their goals. Pilate's dramatic washing of his hands declared his opinion that he was completely innocent of what happened to Jesus (Matthew 27:24).

Having a pure heart likely refers to a person's godly thoughts and character. Further, the person who legitimately enters the Lord's presence in worship does not worship idols: anything or anyone other than the one true God.

A true worshipper does not practice deception (John 4:24). He is a person of integrity. The Lord cannot be fooled. He knows our thoughts, motives, deeds, and speech, and He hates hypocrisy. Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees because they appeared righteous but were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).
Verse Context:
Psalm 24:1–6 affirms what is declared in John 1:1–3 and Genesis 1—2: that God created everything. The people at worship or a chorus sang the first two verses, and a leader asked the question in verse 3. Psalm 15 echoes the truth taught in Psalm 24:4–6, and Matthew 5:6–8 reinforces the fact that only the righteous can see God. Tradition says this psalm celebrates David bringing the ark of the covenant back from Obed-edom's house (2 Samuel 6).
Chapter Summary:
Tradition suggests this psalm celebrates the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. David declares God's role as Creator and Sovereign. He points out the need for worshippers of God to be sincere, truthful, and righteous. The psalm then calls out to the city of Jerusalem to welcome the "King of glory."
Chapter Context:
Psalm 24 follows logically after Psalms 22 and 23. Psalm 22 depicts the Good Shepherd's suffering on the cross. Psalm 23 depicts the depths of His care of his sheep. Psalm 24 depicts his return to rule as king. The cross is seen in Psalm 22. The shepherd's crook is seen in Psalm 23. The shepherd's crown is in view in Psalm 24. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, died for us (Psalm 22), cares for us (Psalm 23), and is coming for us (Psalm 24). Psalm 15 is a parallel to this passage.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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