“Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.
A nice dramatic opening — but why? This surely isn’t a geography lesson. What emotion, what idea is David wrestling with that is so vast, he needs to zoom out into space and look down upon the earth and its inhabitants from God’s viewpoint?
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?
Huh. That isn’t at all what I was expecting. I would’ve thought David was being chased by enemies, or under some sort of attack where he needed reassurance of God’s sovereignty. Instead, he repeats a question from Psalm 15 — which we’ve discussed before — and gives a similar answer:
with a similar payoff:
He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
All well and good (literally! :-), but what the heck does that have to do with the opening verses?
Maybe this isn’t a non sequitur after all, but David affirming how personal holiness is contingent on God’s sovereignty. If God is really the one in control, the we shouldn’t merely focus on defeating — or placating! — our enemies, but on pleasing Him:
Perhaps that is the crucial truth that David is trying to drum into the heads of the Israelites: that Yahweh — not David himself — is their ultimate sovereign, and the one they should be seeking to curry favor from. And that He alone is worthy of glory and honor and welcome:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
And in case there’s any doubt:
Who [is] this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
And to be doubly sure, he says it again:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift [them] up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he [is] the King of glory.
And then makes them repeat the whole thing:
Dang. He’s really pounding this one home. Why?
I wonder. Rather than being in a time of distress, perhaps David is actually returning from a great victory. The crowds have gathered at the city gates to sing David’s praise, to celebrate how he has imposed sovereignty over all his enemies. It is a heady time, for both them and him; an easy time to forget God, and bask in the glory of our own humanity.
Maybe that is why David wrote this Psalm. To remind his people — or even just himself — that glory belongs to God alone. He is already sovereign over the whole earth, and the only one fully deserving of honor and obeisance. Rather than a slave whispering sic transit gloria mundi, we have a king shouting “Who is the real King? Yahweh alone!”
Would I do the same in my moment of glory?
Father, forgive me for forgetting your reality, your over-arching sovereignty. I take such pleasure in my petty triumphs — which isn’t a bad thing in itself, except that it temps to me to bask in my own glory. Forgive me for failing to keep my hands clean, and my heart pure; for setting my soul on vain things, and falling short of my vows. Have mercy on me, O my God, for you alone are good, and great, and worthy of our praise. Teach me soul to lift up its head towards you, and you alone. For I know that only with you as my King of glory can I ever know true victory. Through Jesus my Lord I pray, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is an indirect tribute to Al Gore’s warning about another inconvenient truth.