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Entering God’s House
 
Some wonder if Psalms 15 and 24 were entrance liturgies. Did worships say to the effect “Who my enter the house of God?” and a temple chanter would recite the answers for the two psalms.
 
Gerhard von Rad wrote, “Our best starting-point [for determining their view of ‘righteousness’] is the so-called liturgies of the gate, which represent a curious ceremony that took place at the entry of a procession into the pre-exilic Temple, and some idea of which is given in Pss. xv and xxiv. The people coming in seek admission at the gate of the outer forecourt, and ask what the prerequisites are: ‘Who may ascend the mountain of God, who may stand in his holy place?’ To this the cultic officials answer from within: ‘He whose hands are clean and whose heart is pure, who does not direct his thought towards evil, who does not swear deceitfully ….’ This means that a selection of Jaweh’s commandments was put before those who entered. Admittedly, we do not have to conclude from this that in ancient Israel the fulfilling of the commandments was in principle antecedent to the reception of salvation and the cult, since those seeking admission were certainly not coming before Jahweh for the first time—they had been members of the community of Jahweh from the beginning. But this much becomes clear: those who came to worship were asked for something like a declaration of loyalty to Jahweh’s will for justice.”[1]
 
A point needs to be added to von Rad’s point that the people entering were not all converting but were already part of God’s community. The instructions of Moses called for numerous practices and sacrifices designed to demonstrate repentance and reestablish fellowship with the people’s God. Thus, the point of Psalms 15 and 24 should not be seen as saying only the completely obedient may come before God. Rather, as von Rad says in last line of the quotation above, the issue is loyalty to God’s instruction and God’s will, because God’s will included confession, repentance, and faith as part of ongoing worship.[2]
 
Read Psalms 15 and 24. What do are the common denominators and underlying issues for the “entrance requirements”? How does the last line of von Rad’s statement quoted above get at this issue? How would you put the entrance requirements in your own words if you going to use them where you worship?
 
Read Jeremiah 7:1-11. What does Jeremiah think are “deceptive words”? One commentator wonders, in light of the idea of von Rad and others, whether this first section of Jeremiah’s temple sermon is responding to the people’s false understandings of the so-called entrance psalms (McKane, 1: 159). Compare Psalms 15, 24, and Jeremiah 7:1-11. What are the similar issues with which these deal? If Jeremiah did have in mind the traditions embodied in the entrance psalms, how does his temple sermon challenge his listeners? What did Jeremiah expect?
 
Whatever Jeremiah may expected, what he got was trouble. See the narrative of the people’s response to the temple sermon in Jeremiah 26. Also consider the relationship of Jeremiah’s message and the old preachers of Israel and Judah.



[1] Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2d ed., trans. D. M. G. Stalker (Harper & Row, 1962).
[2] On the function of the sacrifices, esp. the reparation offering [trad. “guilt offering”], see G. Schnittjer, The Torah Story (Zondervan, 2006), chap 17.


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