The Treasury of David, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, [1869-85], at sacred-texts.com
Title - A Psalm of David. From the title we learn nothing but the authorship; but this is interesting, and leads us to observe the wondrous operations of the Spirit upon the mind of Israel's sweet singer, enabling him to touch the mournful string in Psalm twenty-two, to pour forth gentle notes of peace in Psalm twenty-three, and here to utter majestic and triumphant strains. We can do or sing all things when the Lord strengtheneth us.
This sacred hymn was probably written to be sung when the ark of the covenant was taken up from the house of Obed-edom, to remain within curtains upon the hill of Zion. The words are not unsuitable for the sacred dance of joy in which David led the way upon that joyful occasion. The eye of the Psalmist looked, however, beyond the typical upgoing of the ark to the sublime ascension of the King of glory. We will call it The Song of the Ascension.
Division - The Psalm makes a pair with thePsa 15:1-5. It consists of three parts. The first glorifies the true God, and sings of his universal dominion; the second describes the true Israel, who are able to commune with him; and the third pictures the ascent of the true Redeemer who has opened heaven's gates for the entrance of his elect.
Hints to Preachers
Psa 24:1 - The great Proprietor, his estates and his servants, his rights and wrongs.
Psa 24:1 - "The earth is the Lord's."
I. Mention other claimants - idols: pope, man, devil, etc.
II. Try the suit.
III. Carry out the verdict. Use our substance, preach everywhere, claim all things for God.
IV. See how glorious the earth looks when she bears her Master's name.
Psa 24:1 (last clause) - All men belong to God. His sons or his subjects, his servants or his serfs, his sheep or his goats, etc.
Psa 24:2 - Divine purposes accomplished by singular means.
Psa 24:2 - Founded on the seas. Instability of terrestrial things.
Psa 24:3 - The all-important question.
Psa 24:4 (first clause) - Connection between outward morality and inward purity.
Psa 24:4 (second clause) - Men judged by their delights.
Psa 24:4 - "Clean hands."
I. How to get them clean.
II. How to keep them clean.
III. How to defile them.
IV. How to get them clean again.
Psa 24:4, Psa 24:5 - Character manifested and favour received.
Psa 24:5 (second clause) - The good man receiving righteousness and needing salvation, or the evangelical meaning of apparently legal passages.
Psa 24:6 - Those who truly seek fellowship with God.
Psa 24:7 - Accommodate the text to the entrance of Jesus Christ into our hearts.
I. There are obstacles, "gates, doors."
II. We must will to remove them: "lift up."
III. Grace must enable us: "be ye lift up."
IV. Our Lord will enter.
V. He enters as "King," and "King of glory."
Psa 24:7 - The ascension and its teachings.
I. His title - the Lord of hosts.
II. His victories, implied in the expression, The Lord strong and mighty in battle.
III. His mediatorial title, The King of glory.
IV. His authoritative entrance into the holy place.
- John Newton's "Messiah."
Psa 24:8 - The mighty Hero. His pedigree, his power, his battles, his victories.
Psa 24:10 - The sovereignty and glory of God in Christ.
Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
It will be seen that this Psalm was written to be chanted in responsive parts, with two choruses. To comprehend it fully, it should be understood that Jerusalem, as the city of God, was by the Jews regarded as a type of heaven. It so occurs in the Apocalypse, whence we have adopted it in our poetical and devotional aspirations. The court of the tabernacle was the scene of the Lord's more immediate residence - the tabernacle his palace, and the ark his throne. With this leading idea in his mind, the most cursory reader - if there be cursory readers of the Bible - cannot fail to be struck with the beauty and sublimity of this composition, and its exquisite suitableness to the occasion. The chief musician, who was probably in this case the king himself, appears to have begun the sacred lay with a solemn and sonorous recital of these sentences: -
"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof;
The world, and they that dwell therein.
For he hath founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods."
The chorus of vocal music appears to have then taken up the song, and sung the same words in a more tuneful and elaborate harmony; and the instruments and the whole chorus of the people fell in with them, raising the mighty declaration to heaven. There is much reason to think that the people, or a large body of them, were qualified or instructed to take their part in this great ceremonial. The historical text says, "David, and all the house of Israel played before the Lord upon all manner of instruments," etc. We may presume that the chorus then divided, each singing in their turns, and both joining at the close -
"For he hath founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods."
This part of the music may be supposed to have lasted until the procession reached the foot of Zion, or came in view of it, which, from the nature of the enclosed site, cannot be till one comes quite near to it. Then the king must be supposed to have stepped forth, and begun again, in a solemn and earnest tone -
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who shall stand in his holy place?"
To which the first chorus responds -
"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;
Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully."
And then the second chorus -
"He shall receive the blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation."
This part of the sacred song may, in like manner, be supposed to have lasted till they reached the gate of the city, when the king began again in this grand and exalted strain: -
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors,
And the King of glory shall come in!"
repeated then, in the same way as before, by the general chorus.
The persons having charge of the gates on this high occasion ask -
"Who is the King of glory?"
To which the first chorus answers -
"It is Jehovah, strong and mighty -
Jehovah mighty in battle."
which the second chorus then repeats in like manner as before, closing it with the grand universal chorus,
"He is the King of glory! He is the King of glory!"
We must now suppose the instruments to take up the same notes, and continue them to the entrance to the court of the tabernacle. There the king again begins -
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
And be ye lift, up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in."
This is followed and answered as before - all closing, the instruments sounding, the chorus singing, the people shouting -
"He is the King of Glory!"
John Kitto's "Daily Bible Illustrations."
The coming of the Lord of glory, the high demands upon his people proceeding from this, the absolute necessity to prepare worthily for his arrival, form the subject-matter of this Psalm. - E. W. Hengstenberg.
We learn from the rabbins, that this was one of certain Psalms which were sung in the performance of Jewish worship on each day in the week: -
The Psa 24:1-10 Psalm on the 1st, the Lord's-day, our Sunday. Psa 48:1-14 " 2nd " Psa 82:1-8 " 3rd " 94th " 4th " 81st " 5th " Psa 93:1-5 " 6th " Psa 92:1-15 " 7th, the Jewish Sabbath. This Psalm, then, appropriated to the Lord's-day, our Sunday, was intended to celebrate the resurrection of Messiah, and his ascension into heaven, there to sit as a priest upon God's throne, and from thence to come down bringing blessings and mercies to his people. - R. H. Ryland.
Anthem of praise, performed when the heads of the gates of Jerusalem were lifted up to receive the ark; and those of the Israelites who were ceremoniously clean, were alone permitted to accompany it into the court of the tabernacle. A Psalm of David. Psa 24:1, Psa 24:2, chorus. Psa 24:3. First voice. Psa 24:4, Psa 24:5. Second voice. Psa 24:6. Chorus. Psa 24:7. Semi-chorus accompanying the ark. Psa 24:8. Voice from within the gates. Psa 24:8. Chorus of priests accompanying the ark. Psa 24:9. Chorus of priests and people with the ark. Psa 24:10. Voice within the gates. Psa 24:10. Grand chorus. - From "The Psalms, with Prefatory Titles, etc., from the Port Royal Authors," by Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, 1825.
How others may think upon this point, I cannot say, nor pretend to describe, but for my own part, I have no notion of hearing, or of any man's ever having seen or heard, anything so great, so solemn, so celestial, on this side the gates of heaven. - Patrick Delany, D.D., 1686-1768.
"The earth is the Lord's," that is, Christ's, who is the "Lord of lords" (Rev 19:16); for the whole world and all the things therein are his by a twofold title. First, by donation of God his Father, having "all power given unto him in heaven and in earth" (Mat 28:18), even whatsoever things the Father hath are his (Joh 16:15); and so consequently "made heir of all things." Heb 1:2. Secondly, the earth is Christ's and all that therein is, by right of creation, for "he founded it," saith our prophet, and that after a wonderful manner, "upon the seas and floods." ... All things then are Christ's, in respect of creation, "by whom all things were made" (Joh 1:3); in respect of sustentation, as upholding all things by his mighty word (Heb 1:3); in respect of administration, as reaching from one end to another, and ordering all things sweetly (Wis. 8:1); in one word - "Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." Rom 11:36. From hence we may learn (1), That Christ is "the King of glory," "Lord of Hosts," even Almighty God. For he that made all, is "Lord over all;" he that is the Creator of heaven and earth is Almighty (saith our Creed); able to do whatsoever he will, and more than he will too - more by his absolute power, than he will by his actual - "able to raise up children unto Abraham" out of the very stones of the street, though he doth not actually produce such a generation. His almightiness evidently proves him to be God, and his founding of the world his almightiness; for "The gods that have not made the heaven and earth shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens." Jer 10:11. (2). Seeing the compass of the world and all they that dwell therein are the Lord's, it is plain that the church is not confined within the limits of one region, or glued, as it were, to one seat only. The Donatists in old time, would tie the church only to Cartenna in Africa, the Papists in our time to Rome in Italy; but the Scriptures plainly affirm that the golden candlesticks are removed from one place to another, and that the kingdom of God is taken away from one nation and given unto another country that brings forth the fruit thereof; in every region he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of him. Act 10:35. - John Boys.
"The earth is Jehovah's." - The object of the beginning of the Psalm is to show that the Jews had nothing of themselves which could entitle them to approach nearer or more familiarly to God than the Gentiles. As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all, even as he also shows to all men, without exception, the fatherly care he has about them. - J. Calvin.
"The earth is the Lord's." It is Christ's by creation (Psa 24:2; Joh 1:1, Joh 1:2), and it is his by resurrection (Mat 28:18), and by his glorious ascension into heaven, where he is enthroned King of the world in his human nature. This Psalm takes up the language of the first Ascension Psalm (Psa 8:1-9.) - Christopher Wordsworth, D.D in loc.
St. Chrysostom, suffering under the Empress Eudoxia, tells his friend Cyriacus how he armed himself beforehand: εἰ μέν βούλεται ἡ βασίλσσα ἐ ξορίσαι μέ, etc. "I thought, will she banish me? 'The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof.' Take away my goods? 'Naked came I into the world, and naked must I return.' Will she stone me? I remembered Stephen. Behead me? John Baptist came into my mind," etc. Thus it should be with every one that intends to live and die comfortably: they must, as we say, lay up something for a rainy day; they must stock themselves with graces, store up promises, and furnish themselves with experiences of God's lovingkindness to others and themselves too, that so, when the evil day comes, they may have much good coming thereby. - John Spencer.
"The earth is the Lord's." As David, in his youthful days, was tending his flocks on Bethlehem's fertile plains, the spirit of the Lord descended upon him, and his senses were opened, and his understanding enlightened, so that he could understand the songs of the night. The heavens proclaimed the glory of God, the glittering stars formed the general chorus, their harmonious melody resounded upon earth, and the sweet fulness of their voices vibrated to its utmost bounds.
"Light is the countenance of the Eternal," sung the setting sun: "I am the hem of his garment," responded the soft and rosy twilight. The clouds gathered themselves together and said, "We are his nocturnal tent." and the waters in the clouds, and the hollow voices of the thunders, joined in the lofty chorus, "The voice of the Eternal is upon the waters, the God of glory thundereth in the heaven, the Lord is upon many waters."
"He flieth upon my wings," whispered the winds, and the gentle air added, "I am the breath of God, the aspirations of his benign presence." "We hear the songs of praise," said the parched earth; "all around is praise; I alone am sad and silent." Then the falling dew replied, "I will nourish thee, so that thou shalt be refreshed and rejoice, and thy infants shall bloom like the young rose." "Joyfully we bloom," sang the refreshed meads; the full ears of corn waved as they sang, "We are the blessing of God, the hosts of God against famine."
"We bless thee from above," said the gentle moon; "We, too, bless thee," responded the stars; and the lightsome grasshopper chirped, "Me, too, he blesses in the pearly dew-drop." "He quenched my thirst," said the roe; "And refreshed me," continued the stag; "And grants us our food," said the beasts of the forest; "And clothes my lambs," gratefully added the sheep.
"He heard me," croaked the raven, "when I was forsaken and alone;" "He heard me," said the wild goat of the rocks, "when my time came, and I brought forth." And the turtle-dove cooed, and the swallow and other birds joined the song, "We have found our nests, our houses, we dwell upon the altar of the Lord, and sleep under the shadow of his wing in tranquillity and peace." "And peace," replied the night, and echo prolonged the sound, when chanticleer awoke the dawn, and crowed with joy, "Open the portals, set wide the gates of the world! The King of glory approaches. Awake! Arise, ye sons of men, give praises and thanks unto the Lord, for the King of glory approaches."
The sun arose, and David awoke from his melodious rapture. But as long as he lived the strains of creation's harmony remained in his soul, and daily he recalled them from the strings of his harp. - From the "Legend of the Songs of the Night," in the Talmud, quoted in "Biblical Antiquities." By F. A. Cox, D.D., LL.D., 1852.
The pious mind views all things in God, and God in all things. - Ingram Cobbin, 1839.
"He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods." This founding the land upon the seas, and preparing it upon the floods, is so wonderfully wonderful, that Almighty God asked his servant Job, "Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?" Job 38:6. Xerxes commanded his soldiers to fetter the waters of Hellispontus; and so God bindeth, as it were, the floods in fetters, as St. Basil plainly, Ligatum est mare praecepto Creatoris quasi compedibus; he saith unto the sea, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, there shall it stay thy proud waves." "He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap; he layeth up the depth in storehouses" (Job 38:11; Psa 33:7); so that without his leave not so much as one drop can overflow the land. - John Boys.
(New translation.) "For he hath founded it upon the seas, and upon streams doth he make it fast." The reference is no doubt to the account of the Creation, in Genesis, the dry land having emerged from the water, and seeming to rest upon it. (Comp. Psa 136:6; Pro 8:29.) It would, however, be quite out of place to suppose that in such language we have the expression of any theory, whether popular or scientific, as to the structure of the earth's surface: Job says (Job 26:7), "He hangeth the earth upon nothing." Such expressions are manifestly poetical. See Job 38:6. - J. J. Stewart Perowne.
"Upon the seas:" that is, upon the great abyss of waters which is under the earth, enclosed in great hollow places, whence the heads of rivers do spring, and other waters bubble out upon the earth. - John Diodati.
"Above the floods he hath established it." Both the words על (Al) in the two clauses of this verse mean either "above" as we have rendered it, and refer to Gen 1:9, Gen 1:10, denoting that Jehovah hath called forth dry land from the midst of the seas, and established it above the floods, and hath set a boundary to the latter never to turn and overflow it (see Job 38:8; Psalm 104 chronologically Psa 7:9); or "by, or at," as they often denote, and refer to the same subject of the omnipotence of God in relation to the same quoted passages, i.e., that though our globe is situated at or by the floods - is surrounded with mighty waters whose single wave could bury it for ever, still the Lord has so established it that this never can happen. This is a mighty reason why the earth and all its fulness and inhabitants belong to Jehovah. - Benjamin Weiss.
Hereby is mystically meant, that he hath set his church above the waters of adversities, so that how high soever they arise, it is kept still above them in safety, and so shall be for evermore; or it may agree thus - he will take in all nations to be his in grace, because all be his creatures; he made them so admirable an habitation at the first, and upholds it still, showing hereby how much he regards them; therefore he will now extend his favour further towards them, by taking them in to be his people. - Augustine, quoted by Mayer.
"Who shall ascend?" Indeed, if none must ascend but he that is clean and pure, and without vanity and deceit, the question is quickly answered, None shall, for there is none so: dust is our matter, so not clean; defiled is our nature, so not pure; lighter, the heaviest of us, than vanity, and deceitful upon the balance the best of us; so no ascending so high for any of us. Yet there is One we hear of, or might have heard of today, that rose and ascended up on high, was thus qualified as the Psalmist speaks of, all clean and pure, no chaff at all, no guile found in his mouth. Pe1 2:22. Yea, but it was but One that was so; what's that to all the rest? Yes, somewhat 'tis. He was our Head, and if the Head be once risen and ascended, the members will all follow after in their time. - Mark Frank.
"The hill of the Lord," can be no other than a hill of glory. His holy place is no less than the very place and seat of glory. And being such, you cannot imagine it but hard to come by, the very petty glories of the world are so. This is a hill of glory, hard to climb, difficult to ascend, craggy to pass up, steep to clamber, no plain campagnia to it, the broad easy way leads some whither else (Mat 7:13); the way to this is narrow (Mat 7:14); 'tis rough and troublesome. To be of the number of Christ's true faithful servants is no slight work; 'tis a fight, 'tis a race, 'tis a continual warfare; fastings and watchings, and cold and nakedness, and hunger and thirst, bonds, imprisonments, dangers and distresses, ignominy and reproach, afflictions and persecutions, the world's hatred and our friends' neglect, all that we call hard or difficult is to be found in the way we are to go. A man cannot leave a lust, shake off bad company, quit a course of sin, enter upon a way of virtue, profess his religion or stand to it, cannot ascend the spiritual hill, but he will meet some or other of these to contest and strive with. But not only to ascend, but to stand there, as the word signifies; to continue at so high a pitch, to be constant in truth and piety, that will be hard indeed, and bring more difficulties to contest with. - Mark Frank.
Psa 24:3, Psa 24:4
The Psalm begins with a solicitous enquiry, subjoins a satisfactory answer, and closes with a most pertinent but rapturous apostrophe. This is the enquiry, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?" This is the answer, "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;" "he shall receive the blessing" of plenary remission "from the Lord, and righteousness also from the God of his salvation:" even that perfect righteousness which is not acquired by man, but bestowed by Jehovah; which is not performed by the saint, but received by the sinner; which is the only solid basis to support our hopes of happiness, the only valid plea for an admission into the mansions of joy. Then follows the apostrophe: the prophet foresees the ascension of Christ and his saints into the kingdom of heaven. He sees his Lord marching at the head of the redeemed world, and conducting them into regions of honour and joy. Suitably to such a view, and in a most beautiful strain of poetry, he addresses himself to the heavenly portals. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory," with all the heirs of his grace and righteousness, shall make their triumphant entry; "shall enter in," and go out no more. - James Hervey.
Psa 24:3, Psa 24:4
It is not he who sings so well or so many Psalms, nor he who fasts or watches so many days, nor he who divides his own among the poor, nor he who preaches to others, nor he who lives quietly, kindly and friendly; nor, in fine, is it he who knows all sciences and languages, nor he who works all virtuous and all good works that ever any man spoke or read of, but it is he alone, who is pure within and without. - Martin Luther.
"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart." Shall I tell you, then, who is a moral man in the sight of God? It is he that bows to the divine law as the supreme rule of right; he that is influenced by a governing regard to God in all his actions; he that obeys other commands spontaneously, because he has obeyed the first and great command, "Give me thy heart." His conduct is not conformed to custom or expediency, but to one consistent, immutable standard of duty. Take this man into a court of justice, and call on him to testify, and he will not bear false witness. Give him the charge of untold treasures, he will not steal. Trust him with the dearest interests of yourself or family, you are safe, because he has a living principle of truth and integrity in his bosom. He is as worthy of confidence in the dark as at noonday; for he is a moral man, not because reputation or interest demands it, not because the eye of public observation is fixed upon him, but because the love and fear of God have predominant ascendancy in his heart. - Ebenezer Porter, D.D., 1834.
Conditions that suit none but Christ. [Bellarmine.] "He that hath clean hands;" "the clean of hands," Mary.: - those hands from which went forth virtue and healing; hands ever lifted up in prayer to God, or in blessing to man; hands stretched forth on the cross for the cleansing of the whole world. - Isaac Williams, in loc.
"Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity," is read by Arius Montanus, "He that hath not received his soul in vain." Oh! how many receive their souls in vain, making no more use of them than the swine, of whom the philosopher observes, cujus anima pro sale, their souls are only for salt to keep their bodies from stinking. Who would not grieve to think that so choice a piece should be employed about so vain a use! - George Swinnock.
"Nor sworn deceitfully;" or inured his tongue to any other kind of the language of hell's rotten communication, to the dishonouring of God, or deceiving of others. Perjury is here instanced for the rest, as one of the most heinous. But Peraldus reckoneth up four-and-twenty several sins of the tongue, all which every burgess of the New Jerusalem is careful to avoid, as the devil's drivel, no way becoming his pure lip. - John Trapp.
Now we come to the four conditions requisite to render such an ascent possible. 1. Abstinence from evil doing: "He that hath clean hands." 2. Abstinence from evil thought: "and a pure heart." 3. Who does that duty which he is sent into the world to do: "That hath not lift up his mind unto vanity;" or, as it is in the Vulgate, "Who hath not received his soul in vain." And, 4. Remembers the vows by which he is bound to God: "nor sworn to deceive." And in the fullest sense, there was but One in whom all these things were fulfilled; so that in reply to the question, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" he might well answer, "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." Joh 3:13. "Therefore it is well written," says St. Bernard, "that such an High Priest became us, because he knows the difficulty of that ascent to the celestial mountain, he knows the weakness of us that have to ascend." - Lorinus and Bernard, quoted by J. M. Neale.
Heaven is not won with good words and a fair profession. The doing Christian is the man that shall stand, when the empty boaster of his faith shall fall. The great talkers of religion are often the least doers. His religion is in vain whose profession brings not letters testimonial from a holy life. - William Gurnall.
"He shall receive the blessing;" as before, "Thou shalt set him to be a blessing." Psa 21:6. His name is never without blessing. In him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. On the mount of his beatitudes, on the heavenly Mount Sion, crowned as "the Son of the blessed." "From the Lord;" even the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Eph 1:3 - Isaac Williams.
"He shall receive.... righteousness." As for our own righteousness which we have without him, Esay telleth us, "it is a defiled cloth;" and St. Paul, that it is but "dung." Two very homely comparisons, but they be the Holy Ghost's own; yet nothing so homely as in the original, where they be so odious, as what manner of defiled cloth, or what kind of dung we have not dared to translate. Our own then being no better, we are driven to seek for it elsewhere. "He shall receive his righteousness," saith the prophet; and "the gift of righteousness," saith the apostle. Phi 3:8, Phi 3:9; Rom 5:17. It is then another, to be given us, and to be received by us, which we must seek for. And whither shall we go for it? Job alone dispatcheth this point (Job 15:15; Job 4:18; Job 25:5.) Not to the heavens or stars, they are unclean in his sight. Not to the saints, for in them he found folly. Not to the angels, for neither in them found he steadfastness. Now, if none of these will serve, we see a necessary reason why Jehovah must be a part of this name, "the Lord our righteousness." Jer 23:6. - Lancelot Andrewes.
"This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face." Christians must be seekers. This is the generation of seekers. All mankind, if ever they will come to heaven, they must be a generation of seekers. Heaven is a generation of finders, of possessors, of enjoyers, seekers of God. But here we are a generation of seekers. We want somewhat that we must seek. When we are at best, we want the accomplishment of our happiness. It is a state of seeking here, because it is a state of want; we want something alway. But to come more particularly to this seeking the face of God, or the presence of God..... The presence of God meant here is, that presence that he shows in the time of need, and in his ordinances. He shows a presence in need and necessity, that is, a gracious presence to his children, a gracious face. As in want of direction, he shows his presence of light to direct them; in weakness he shows his strength; in trouble and perplexity he will show his gracious and comfortable presence to comfort them. In perplexity he shows his presence to set the heart at large, answerable to the necessity. So in need God is present with his children, to direct them, to comfort them, to strengthen them, if they need that. - Richard Sibbes.
"This is the generation." By the demonstrative pronoun "this," the Psalmist erases from the catalogue of the servants of God all counterfeit Israelites, who, trusting only to their circumcision and the sacrifice of beasts, have no concern about offering themselves to God; and yet, at the same time, they rashly thrust themselves into the church. - John Calvin.
"That seek thy face, O Jacob." In Pro 7:15, and Pro 29:26, we have "seeking the face of" in the sense of seeking the favour of, or showing delight in. Their delight is not in Esau, who got "the fatness of earth" (Gen 27:39) as his portion. And those writers may be right who consider Jacob as a name for Messiah, to whom belong the true birthright and blessing. - Andrew A. Bonar.
"That seek thy face, O Jacob." He is "the seed of Jacob;" he is "the Holy One of Israel;" "the face of thine Anointed" is the face of him who is both God and man; for "we shall see him as he is." - Isaac Williams.
"O Jacob," or, O God of Jacob. As the church is called Christ (Co1 12:12), so God is here called "Jacob;" such a near union there is betwixt him and his people. Or, this is Jacob. So the true seekers are fitly called, first, because Israelites indeed (Joh 1:47; Rom 9:6); secondly, because they see God face to face, as Jacob did at Peniel (Gen 32:24-30); thirdly, because they also, as he, do bear away a blessing (Hos 12:4), even "righteousness from the God of their salvation," as in the verse aforegoing. - John Trapp.
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates." The gates of the temple were indeed as described, very lofty and magnificent, in proportion to the gigantic dimensions of that extraordinary edifice. But the phrase, "Lift up your heads," refers not so much to their loftiness, as to the upper part being formed so as to be lifted up; while the under portion opened in folding doors. - Robert Jamieson, in Paxton's "Illustrations of Scripture."
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates." At the castle of Banias, in Syria, are the remains of an ancient gate which was drawn up, like a blind, the gate fitting in grooves. This will fully explain the term. - John Gadsby.
"Lift up." A phrase or term taken from triumphal arches or great porticoes, set up, or beautified and adorned for the coming in of great, victorious, and triumphant captains. - John Diodati.
"Be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." Some interpret this of the doors of our heart, according to that (Rev 3:20), "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him," etc. In the gospel history, we find that Christ had a fourfold entertainment among men. Some received him into house, not into heart, as Simon the Pharisee (Luk 7:44), who gave him no kiss nor water to his feet; some into heart, but not into house, as the faithful centurion (Mat 8:8), esteeming himself unworthy that Christ should come under his roof; some neither into house nor heart, as the graceless Gergesites (Mat 8:34); some both into house and heart, as Lazarus, Mary, Martha. Joh 3:15; Luk 10:38. Now that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and that our bodies may be temples of his Holy Spirit, we must as our prophet exhorts here, lift up our souls, that is, in the words of St. Paul (Col 3:2), our affections must be set on things which are above, and not on things which are on earth: if we desire to lift up our hearts unto Christ's verity, we may not lift them up unto the world's vanity; that is, we must not fasten our love too much upon the things of this life, but on those pleasures at God's right hand which are evermore; that as we have borne the image of the first Adam, who was earthly, so we should bear the image of the second Adam, which is heavenly. Co1 15:49. The profane worldling sings a Nunc dimittis unto Christ, and saith as the devils, "Ah! what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?" (Mar 1:24); and as Job reports his words, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Job 21:14. On the contrary, the religious soul, enjoying the possession of the Saviour, chanteth a merry Magnificat, and a pleasant Te Deum: she saith unto Christ, as Ruth unto Naomi (Rut 1:16), "Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee." Nay, death itself shall not part us, for when I am loosed out of my body's prison, I hope to be with Christ; as Ittai then unto David, I say unto Jesus, "As the Lord liveth, and as my Lord the king liveth, surely in what place the lord my king shall be, whether in death, or life, even there also will thy servant be." Sa2 15:21. O Lord, which art the God of my salvation, I lift my heart to thee, desirous to seek thee, both in the right ubi - where thou mayst be found and in the right quando - while thou mayst be found. Psa 18:47; Psa 25:1 Open my dull ears and hard heart, that thy Son my Saviour may come in and dwell with me. Grant me grace that I may still hear while he calleth, open while he knocketh, and hold him also when I have him; that I may both ascend thine hill, and stand in thine holy places; that I may not only sojourn in thy tabernacle, but also rest and dwell upon the mountain of thine holiness. - John Boys.
"Everlasting doors." Heaven's gates are called "everlasting," because they shall endure for ever, or because they be the doors unto the life which is everlasting. - John Boys.
Whatever we may think of these things, David thought it high time for him to bid such a messenger welcome, and to open his heart for the receiving his God. Hear what he saith to his own heart and others: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." And because the door of men's hearts is locked, and barred and bolted, and men are in a deep sleep, and will not hear the knocking that is at the gate, though it be loud, though it be a king; therefore David knocks again, "Lift up, ye everlasting doors." Why, what haste, saith the sinner? What haste? Why, here's the King at your gates; and that not an ordinary king neither; he is a glorious King, that will honour you so far, if you open quickly, as to lodge within, to take up his abode in your house, to dwell with you. But the soul for all this doth not yet open, but stands still questioning, as if it were an enemy rather than a friend that stood there, and asks, "Who is this King of glory?" Who? He answers again, "It is the Lord of Hosts;" he, that if you will not open quickly and thankfully too, can easily pull your house down about your ears; he is the Lord of hosts, that King who hath a mighty army always at his command, who stand ready for their commission, and then you should know who it is you might have had for your friend; "Lift up, therefore, your heads, O ye gates." Open quickly, ye that had rather have God for your friend than for your enemy. Oh, why should not the soul of every sinner cry out, Lord, the door is locked, and thou hast the key; I have been trying what I can do, but the wards are so rusty that I cannot possibly turn the key? But, Lord, throw the door off the hinges, anything in the world so thou wilt but come in and dwell here. Come, O mighty God, break through doors of iron, and bars of brass, and make way for thyself by thy love and power. Come, Lord and make thyself welcome; all that I have is at thy service; O fit my soul to entertain thee! - James Janeway.
He hath left with us the earnest of the Spirit, and taken from us the earnest of our flesh, which he hath carried into heaven as a pledge that the whole shall follow after. - Tertullian.
Christ is gone to heaven as a victor; leading sin, Satan, death, hell, and all his enemies in triumph at his chariot wheels. He has not only overcome his enemies for himself, but for all his people, whom he will make conquerors, yea, "more than conquerors." As he has overcome, so shall they also overcome; and as he is gone to heaven a victor, they shall follow in triumph. He is in heaven as a Saviour. When he came from heaven it was in the character of a Saviour; when on earth he obtained eternal salvation; in heaven he lives as a Saviour; when he comes again from heaven he will come as a Saviour; and when he will return, he will return as a Saviour. He is also gone to heaven as the rightful heir. He is not gone to heaven as a sojourner, but as "the heir of all things." He is the heir of heavenly glory and happiness, and believers are "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ." - Henry Pendlebury, 1626-1695.
"O clap your hands together, all ye people; sing unto God with the voice of melody. God is gone up with a merry noise, and the Lord with the sound of the trump." Psa 47:1, Psa 47:5. This Ark, which has saved the world from destruction, after floating on a deluge of blood, rests at length on the mountain. This innocent Joseph, whose virtue had been oppressed by the synagogue, is brought out of the dungeon to receive a crown. This invincible Samson has carried away the gates of hell, and goes in triumph to the everlasting hills. This victorious Joshua has passed over Jordan with the ark of the covenant, and takes possession of the land of the living. This Sun of righteousness, which had gone down ten degrees, returns backward to the place which it had left. He who was "a worm" at his birth, a Lamb in his passion, and a Lion in his resurrection, now ascends as an Eagle to heaven, and encourages us to follow him thither. This day heaven learns to endure man's presence, and men to walk above the stars; the heavenly Jerusalem receives its rightful King, the church its High Priest, the house of God its Heritor, the whole world its Ruler. "O sing praises, sing praises unto our God: O sing praises, sing praises unto our King." Psa 47:6-8. "God reigneth over the heathen, God sitteth upon his holy seat." "The princes of the people are joined unto" him; "he is very highly exalted" above them. - From "The Life of Jesus Christ in Glory," translated from the French of James Nouet.
Psa 24:7, Psa 24:8
Christ being now arrived at heaven's doors, those heavenly spirits that accompanied him began to say, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in!" to whom some of the angels that were within, not ignorant of his person, but admiring his majesty and glory, said again, "Who is the King of glory?" and then they answered, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle;" and thereupon those twelve gates of the holy city, of new Jerusalem, opened of their own accord, and Jesus Christ with all his ministering spirits entered in. O my soul, how should this heighten thy joy and enlarge thy comforts, in that Christ is now received up into glory? Every sight of Christ is glorious, and in every sight thou shouldst wait on the Lord Jesus Christ for some glorious manifestations of himself. Come, live up to the rate of this great mystery; view Christ as entering into glory, and thou wilt find the same sparkles of glory on thy heart. Oh! this sight is a transforming sight: "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Co2 3:18. - Isaac Ambrose.
Psa 24:7, Psa 24:8
Ye that are thus the living temples of the Lord, and have already entertained his sanctifying Spirit into you, do you lift up your hearts in the use of holy ordinances through faith, in joyful desires and assured expectation of him; yea, be you abundantly lift up by faith in the use of holy means, who are the everlasting habitation of an everlasting God, with a joyful and assured welcome of him; for so shall you invite and undoubtedly entertain the high and mighty Potentate, the Lord Christ into your souls, with the glorious manifestation and ravishing operation of his love, benefits, and graces. And know, O all ye faithful and obedient ones, for your courage and comfort, who, and of what quality this glorious King, the Lord Jesus is, whom the world despises but you honour. Why, he is the Almighty God, of power all-sufficient to preserve and defend his people and church, that in trust of him do love and serve him, against all the strength and power of men and devils that do or shall malign or oppose themselves against them, and to put them to the foil, as we his Israel in the letter have found by experience for your instruction and corroboration that are his people in spirit. - George Abbot, in "Brief Notes upon the whole Book of Psalms," 1651.
Oh, what tongue of the highest archangel of heaven can express the welcome of thee, the King of glory, into these blessed regions of immortality? Surely the empyreal heaven never resounded with so much joy: God ascended with jubilation, and the Lord with the sound of the trumpet. It is not for us, weak and finite creatures, to wish to conceive those incomprehensible, spiritual, divine gratulations, that the glorious Trinity gave to the victorious and now glorified human nature. Certainly, if, when he brought his only-begotten Son into the world, he said, "Let all the angels worship him;" much more now that he "ascends on high, and hath led captivity captive, hath he given him a name above all names, that at the name of Jesus all knees should bow." And if the holy angels did so carol at his birth, in the very entrance into that state of humiliation and infirmity with what triumph did they receive him now returning from the perfect achievement of man's redemption? and if, when his type had vanished Goliath, and carried his head into Jerusalem, the damsels came forth to meet him with dances and timbrels, how shall we think those angelical spirits triumphed in meeting of the great Conqueror of hell and death? How did they sing, "Lift up your heads, ye gates! and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." Surely as he shall come, so he went; and, "Behold, he shall come with thousands of his holy ones; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand thousands stood before him;" from all whom, methinks I hear that blessed applause, "Worthy is the Lamb that was killed, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and praise: praise and honour, and glory, and power, be to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for evermore." And why dost not thou, O my soul, help to bear thy part with that happy choir of heaven? Why art not thou rapt out of my bosom, with an ecstacy of joy, to see this human nature of ours exalted above all the powers of heaven adored of angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, and all those mighty and glorious spirits, and sitting there crowned with infinite glory and majesty? - Joseph Hall.
In the Psa 24:1-10, we have an account of the actual entrance of Christ into heaven. When the King of England wishes to enter the city of London, through the Temple Bar, the gate being closed against him, the herald demands entrance. "Open the gate." From within a voice is heard, "Who is there?" The herald answers, "The King of England!" The gate is at once opened, and the king passes, amidst the joyful acclamations of his people. This is an ancient custom, and the allusion is to it in this Psalm. "The Lord ascended with a shout;" he approached the heavenly portal - the herald in his escort demanded an entrance, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." The celestial watchers within ask, "Who is the King of glory?" The heralds answer, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." The question and answer being repeated once more, the gates lift up their heads, and the everlasting doors are lifted up. The Prince enters his Father's palace, greeted with the acclamations of heaven, all whose inhabitants unite in one shout of joy ineffable: "The Lord of Hosts, he is the King of glory!" - Christmas Evans.
If we follow our Redeemer in his ascension and session at the right hand of God, where he is constituted Lord of all, angels, principalities, and powers being made subject to him, and where he sits till his enemies are made his footstool, we shall observe the tide of celestial blessedness rise higher and higher still. The return of a great and beloved prince, who should by only hazarding his life, have saved his country, would fill a nation with ecstacy. Their conversation in every company would turn upon him, and all their thoughts and joys concentrate in him. See then the King of kings, after having by death abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light; after spoiling the powers of darkness, and ruining all their schemes; see hint return in triumph! There was something like triumph when he entered into Jerusalem. All the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?" And the multitude answered, It is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth; and the very children sung, Hosannah to the Son of David: blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord; hosannah in the highest! How much greater then must be the triumph of his entry into the heavenly Jerusalem! Would not all the city be "moved" in this case, saying "Who is this?" See thousands of angels attending him, and ten thousand times ten thousand come forth to meet him! The entrance of the ark into the city of David was but a shadow of this, and the responsive strains which were sung on that occasion would on this be much more applicable. - Andrew Fuller.
Why is the song repeated? Why are the everlasting gates invited to lift up their heads a second time? We may not pretend here, or in any place, to know all the meaning of the divine Psalms. But what if the repetition of this verse was meant to put us in mind that our Saviour's ascension will be repeated also? He will not indeed die any more; death can no more have any dominion over him; "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin." Neither of course can he rise again any more. But as he will come again at the end of the world, to judge the quick and the dead, so after that descent he will have to ascend again. And I say, this second ascension may be signified by the Psalmist calling on the everlasting doors to lift up their heads a second time, and make way for the King of glory. Now observe the answer made this second time, "Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 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." Before, it was "the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle;" now it is "The Lord of Hosts." Christ ascending the first time, to intercede for us at his Father's right hand, is called "The Lord mighty in battle." But Christ, ascending the second time, after the world hath been judged, and the good and bad separated for ever is called "the Lord of hosts." Why this difference in his divine titles? We may reverently take it, that it signifies to us the difference between his first and second coming down to earth, his first and second ascension into heaven. As in other respects his first coming was in great humility, so in this, that he came, in all appearance, alone. The angels were indeed waiting round him, but not visibly, not in glory. "He trode the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with him." He wrestled with death, hell and Satan, alone. Alone he rose from the dead: alone, as far as man could see, he went up to heaven. Thus he showed himself "the Lord mighty in battle," mighty in that single combat which he, as our champion, our David, victoriously maintained against our great enemy. But when he shall come down and go up the second time, he will show himself "the Lord of hosts." Instead of coming down alone in mysterious silence, as in his wonderful incarnation, he will be followed by all the armies of heaven. "The Lord my God will come, and all his saints with him." "The Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints." "The Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father, and all the holy angels with him." "Thousand thousands will stand around him, and ten thousand times ten thousand will minister unto him." Instead of the silence of that quiet chamber at Nazareth, and of the holy Virgin's womb, there will be the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God accompanying him. Thus he will come down as the Lord of hosts, and as the Lord of hosts he will ascend again to his Father, After the judgment, he will pass again through the everlasting doors, with a greater company than before; for he will lead along with him, into the heavenly habitation, all those who shall have been raised from their graves and found worthy. Hear how the awful sight is described by one who will doubtless have a high place in that day near the Judge. The great apostle and prophet, St. Paul, says, "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout; and the dead in Christ shall rise first,: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." - John Keble, M.A.
In his blessed life
I see the path, and in his death the price,
And in his great ascent the proof supreme
Of immortality. And did he rise?
Hear, O ye nations! hear it, O ye dead!
He rose! He rose! He burst the bars of death.
Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates!
And give the King of glory to come in.
Who is the King of glory? He who left
His throne of glory for the pangs of death.
Lift up your heads, ye everlasting gates!
And give the King of glory to come in.
Who is the King of glory? He who slew
The ravenous foe that gorged all human race.
The King of glory, he whose glory filled
Heaven with amazement at his love to man.
And with divine complacency beheld
Powers most illumined 'wildered in the theme.
Lift up your heads, ye gates, and, O prepare,
Ye living orbs, your everlasting doors,
The King of glory comes!
What King of glory? He whose puissant might
Subdued Abaddon, and the infernal powers
Of darkness bound in adamantine chains:
Who, wrapp'd in glory, with the Father reigns,
Omnipotent, immortal, infinite!
"Who is the King of glory?" Christ in two respects is "the King of glory." 1. For that all honour and glory belong properly to him - his is "the kingdom, the power, and the glory" (Mat 6:13), called in this regard, "The Lord of glory." Co1 2:8, Co1 2:2. For that Christ maketh us partakers of his glory, termed in this respect our glorious Lord Jesus. Jam 2:1. If the Lord of hosts, strong and mighty in battle, be the King of glory, then Christ, (having conquered all his enemies, and made them his footstool, triumphing over death, and the devil which is the founder of death, and sin which is the sting of death, and the grave which is the prison of death, and hell itself which is the proper dominion of the devil and death) is doubtless in himself, "the King of glory." And for as much as he died for our sins, and is risen again for our justification, and is ascended on high to give gifts unto men - in this life grace, in the next glory - what is he less than a "King of glory" towards us, of whom and through whom alone we that fight his battles are delivered from the hands of all that hate us, and so made victors (Co1 15:57), yea, "more than conquerors." Rom 8:37. - John Boys.
"The Lord strong and mighty." "Strong and mighty." in subduing all adversaries; and overcoming death and the devil who had the power of death. - Ludolphus, quoted by Isaac Williams.
"Jehovah of hosts," or, as the Hebrew is, Jehovah Tsebaoth, for so the word is used by the apostles, untranslated in the Greek, Sabaoth. Rom 9:29. It signifieth hosts or armies standing ready in martial order, and in battle array, and comprehendeth all creatures in heaven and in earth, which are pressed to do the will of God. - Henry Ainsworth.
1 The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.
How very different is this from the ignorant Jewish notion of God which prevailed in our Saviour's day. The Jews said, "The holy land is God's, and the seed of Abraham are his only people;" but their great Monarch had long before instructed them, - "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." The whole round world is claimed for Jehovah, "and they that dwell therein" are declared to be his subjects. When we consider the bigotry of the Jewish people at the time of Christ, and how angry they were with our Lord for saying that many widows were in Israel, but unto none of them was the prophet sent, save only to the widow of Sarepta, and that there were many lepers in Israel, but none of them was healed except Naaman the Syrian, - when we recollect, too, how angry they were at the mention of Paul's being sent to the Gentiles, we are amazed that they should have remained in such blindness, and yet have sung this Psalm, which shows so clearly that God is not the God of the Jews only, but of the Gentiles also. What a rebuke is this to those wiseacres who speak of the negro and other despised races as though they were not cared for by the God of heaven! If a man be but a man the Lord claims him, and who dares to brand him as a mere piece of merchandise! The meanest of men is a dweller in the world, and therefore belongs to Jehovah. Jesus Christ has made an end of the exclusiveness of nationalities. There is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but we all are one in Christ Jesus.
Man lives upon "the earth," and parcels out its soil among his mimic kings and autocrats; but the earth is not man's. He is but a tenant at will, a lease-holder upon most precarious tenure, liable to instantaneous ejectment. The great Landowner and true Proprietor holds his court above the clouds and laughs at the title-deeds of worms of the dust. The fee-simple is not with the lord of the manor nor the freeholder, but with the Creator. The "fulness" of the earth may mean its harvests, its wealth, its life, or its worship; in all these senses the Most High God is Possessor of all. The earth is full of God; he made it full and he keeps it full, notwithstanding all the demands which living creatures make upon its stores the sea is full, despite all the clouds which rise from it; the air is full, notwithstanding all the lives which breathe it; the soil is full, though millions of plants derive their nourishment from it. Under man's tutored hand the world is coming to a greater fulness than ever, but it is all the Lord's; the field and the fruit, the earth and all earth's wonders are Jehovah's. We look also for a sublimer fulness when the true ideal of a world for God shall have been reached in millennial glories, and then most clearly the earth will be the Lord's, and the fulness thereof. These words are now upon London's Royal Exchange, they shall one day be written in letters of light across the sky.
The term "worm" indicates the habitable regions, wherein Jehovah is especially to be acknowledged as Sovereign. He who rules the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air should not be disobeyed by man, his noblest creature. Jehovah is the Universal King, all nations are beneath his sway: true Autocrat of all the nations, emperors and czars are but his slaves. Men are not their own, nor may they call their lips, their hearts, or their substance their own; they are Jehovah's rightful servants. This claim especially applies to us who are born from heaven. We do not belong to the world or to Satan, but by creation and redemption we are the peculiar portion of the Lord.
Paul uses this verse twice, to show that no food is unclean, and that nothing is really the property of false gods. All things are God's; no ban is on the face of nature, nothing is common or unclean. The world is all God's world, and the food which is sold in the shambles is sanctified by being my Father's, and I need not scruple to eat thereof.
In the second verse we have the reason why the world belongs to God: namely, because he has created it, which is a title beyond all dispute. "For he hath founded it upon the seas." It is God who lifts up the earth from out of the sea, so that the dry land, which otherwise might in a moment be submerged, as in the days of Noah, is kept from the floods. The hungry jaws of ocean would devour the dry land if a constant fiat of Omnipotence did not protect it. "He hath established it upon the floods." The world is Jehovah's, because from generation to generation he preserves and upholds it, having settled its foundations. Providence and Creation are the two legal seals upon the title-deeds of the great Owner of all things. He who built the house and bears up its foundation has surely a first claim upon it. Let it be noted, however, upon what insecure foundations all terrestrial things are founded. Founded on the seas! Established on the floods! Blessed be God the Christian has another world to look forward to, and rests his hopes upon a more stable foundation than this poor world affords. They who trust in worldly things build upon the sea; but we have laid our hopes, by God's grace, upon the Rock of Ages; we are resting upon the promise of an immutable God, we are depending upon the constancy of a faithful Redeemer. Oh! ye worldlings, who have built your castles of confidence, your palaces of wealth, and your bowers of pleasure upon the seas, and established them upon the floods; how soon will your baseless fabrics melt, like foam upon the waters! Sand is treacherous enough, but what shall be said of the yet more unstable seas?
3 Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?
4 He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.
Here we have the true Israel described. The men who shall stand as courtiers in the palace of the living God are not distinguished by race, but by character; they are not Jews only, nor Gentiles only, nor any one branch of mankind peculiarly, but a people purified and made meet to dwell in the holy hill of the Lord.
"Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" It is uphill work for the creature to reach the Creator. Where is the mighty climber who can scale the towering heights? Nor is it height alone; it is glory too. Whose eye shall see the King in his beauty and dwell in his palace? In heaven he reigns most gloriously, who shall be permitted to enter into his royal presence? God has made all, but he will not save all; there is a chosen company who shall have the singular honour of dwelling with him in his high abode. These choice spirits desire to commune with God, and their wish shall be granted them. The solemn enquiry of the text is repeated in another form. Who shall be able to "stand" or continue there? He casteth away the wicked, who then can abide in his house? Who is he that can gaze upon the Holy One, and can abide in the blaze of his glory? Certainly none may venture to commune with God upon the footing of the law, but grace can make us meet to behold the vision of the divine presence. The question before us is one which all should ask for themselves, and none should be at ease till they receive an answer of peace. With careful self-examination let us enquire, "Lord, is it I?
"He that hath clean hands." Outward, practical holiness is a very precious mark of grace. To wash in water with Pilate is nothing, but to wash in innocency is all-important. It is to be feared that many professors have perverted the doctrine of justification by faith in such a way as to treat good works with contempt; if so, they will receive everlasting contempt at the last great day. It is vain to prate of inward experience unless the daily life is free from impurity, dishonesty, violence, and oppression. Those who draw near to God must have "clean hands." What monarch would have servants with filthy hands to wait at his table? They who were ceremonially unclean could not enter into the Lord's house which was made with hands, much less shall the morally defiled be allowed to enjoy spiritual fellowship with a holy God. If our hands are now unclean, let us wash them in Jesus' precious blood, and so let us pray unto God, lifting up pure hands. But "clean hands" would not suffice, unless they were connected with "a pure heart." True religion is heart-work. We may wash the outside of the cup and the platter as long as we please, but if the inward parts be filthy, we are filthy altogether in the sight of God, for our hearts are more truly ourselves than our hands are. We may lose our hands and yet live, but we could not lose our heart and still live; the very life of our being lies in the inner nature, and hence the imperative need of purity within. There must be a work of grace in the care of the heart as well as in the palm of the hand, or our religion is a delusion. May God grant that our inward powers may be cleansed by the sanctifying Spirit, so that we may love holiness and abhor all sin. The pure in heart shall see God, all others are but blind bats; stone-blindness in the eyes arises from stone in the heart. Dirt in the heart throws dust in the eyes.
The soul must be delivered from delighting in the grovelling toys of earth; the man who is born for heaven "hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity." All men have their joys, by which their souls are lifted up; the worldling lifts up his soul in carnal delights, which are mere empty vanities; but the saint loves more substantial things; like Jehoshaphat, he is lifted up in the ways of the Lord. He who is content with the husks will be reckoned with the swine. If we suck our consolation from the breasts of the world, we prove ourselves to be its home-born children. Does the world satisfy thee? Then thou hast thy reward and thy portion in this life; make much of it, for thou shalt know no other joy.
"Nor sworn deceitfully." The saints are men of honour still. The Christian man's word is his only oath; but that is as good as twenty oaths of other men. False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God's house, whatever may be his professions or doings. God will have nothing to do with liars, except to cast them into the lake of fire. Every liar is a child of the devil, and will be sent home to his father. A false declaration, a fraudulent statement, a cooked account, a slander, a lie - all these may suit the assembly of the ungodly, but are detested among true saints: how could they have fellowship with the God of truth, if they did not hate every false way?
It must not be supposed that the persons who are thus described by their inward and outward holiness are saved by the merit of their works; but their works are the evidences by which they are known. The present verse shows that in the saints grace reigns and grace alone. Such men wear the holy livery of the Great King because he has of his own free love clothed them therewith. The true saint wears the wedding garment, but he owns that the Lord of the feast provided it for him, without money and without price. "He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation." So that the saints need salvation; they receive righteousness, and "the blessing" is a boon from God their Saviour. They do not ascend the hill of the Lord as givers but as receivers, and they do not wear their own merits, but a righteousness which they have received. Holy living ensures a blessing as its reward from the thrice Holy God, but it is itself a blessing of the New Covenant and a delightful fruit of the Spirit. God first gives us good works, and then rewards us for them. Grace is not obscured by God's demand for holiness, but is highly exalted as we see it decking the saint with jewels, and clothing him in fair white linen; all this sumptuous array being a free gift of mercy.
"This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob." These are the regeneration, these are in the line of grace; these are the legitimate seed. Yet they are only seekers; hence learn that true seekers are very dear in God's esteem, and are entered upon his register. Even seeking has a sanctifying influence; what a consecrating power must lie in finding and enjoying the Lord's face and favour! To desire communion with God is a purifying thing. Oh to hunger and thirst more and more after a clear vision of the face of God; this will lead us to purge ourselves from all filthiness, and to walk with heavenly circumspection. He who longs to see his friend when he passes takes care to clear the mist from the window, lest by any means his friend should go by unobserved. Really awakened souls seek the Lord above everything, and as this is not the usual desire of mankind, they constitute a generation by themselves; a people despised of men but beloved of God. The expression "O Jacob" is a very difficult one, unless it be indeed true that the God of Jacob here condescends to be called Jacob, and takes upon himself the name of his chosen people.
The preceding verses correct the inordinate boastings of those Jews who vaunted themselves as the favourites of heaven; they are told that their God is the God of all the earth, and that he is holy, and will admit none but holy ones into his presence. Let the mere professor as he reads these verses listen to the voice which saith, "without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
"Selah." Lift up the harp and voice, for a nobler song is coming; a song of our Well-beloved.
7 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord is strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.
10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.
These last verses reveal to us the great representative man, who answered to the full character laid down, and therefore by his own right ascended the holy hill of Zion. Our Lord Jesus Christ could ascend into the hill of the Lord because his hands were clean and his heart was pure, and if we by faith in him are conformed to his image we shall enter too. We have here a picture of our Lord's glorious ascent. We see him rising from amidst the little group upon Olivet, and as the cloud receives him, angels reverently escort him to the gates of heaven.
The ancient gates of the eternal temple are personified and addressed in song by the attending cohort of rejoicing spirits.
"Lo his triumphal chariot waits,
And angels chant the solemn lay,
'Lift up your heads, ye heavenly gates;
Ye everlasting doors, give way.'"
They are called upon "to lift up their heads," as though with all their glory they were not great enough for the Allglorious King. Let all things do their utmost to honour so great a Prince; let the highest heaven put on unusual loftiness in honour of "the King of Glory." He who, fresh from the cross and the tomb, now rides through the gates of the New Jerusalem is higher than the heavens; great and everlasting as they are, those gates of pearl are all unworthy of him before whom the heavens are not pure, and who chargeth his angels with folly. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates."
The watchers at the gate hearing the song look over the battlements and ask, "Who is this King of glory?" A question full of meaning and worthy of the meditations of eternity. Who is he in person, nature, character, office and work? What is his pedigree? What his rank and what his race? The answer given in a might wave of music is, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." We know the might of Jesus by the battles which he has fought, the victories which he has won over sin, and death, and hell, and we clap our hands as we see him leading captivity captive in the majesty of his strength. Oh for a heart to sing his praises! Mighty hero, be thou crowned for ever King of kings and Lord of lords.
"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." The words are repeated with a pleasing variation. There are times of deep earnest feeling when repetitions are not vain but full of force. Doors were often taken from their hinges when Easterns would show welcome to a guest, and some doors were drawn up and down like a portcullis, and may possibly have protruded from the top; thus literally lifting up their heads. The picture is highly poetical, and shows how wide heaven's gate is set by the ascension of our Lord. Blessed be God, the gates have never been shut since. The opened gates of heaven invite the weakest believer to enter.
Dear reader, it is possible that you are saying, "I shall never enter into the heaven of God, for I have neither clean hands nor a pure heart." Look then to Christ, who has already climbed the holy hill. He has entered as the forerunner of those who trust him. Follow in his footsteps, and repose upon his merit. He rides triumphantly into heaven, and you shall ride there too if you trust him. "But how can I get the character described?" say you. The Spirit of God will give you that. He will create in you a new heart and a right spirit. Faith in Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit, and has all virtues wrapped up in it. Faith stands by the fountain filled with blood, and as she washes therein, clean hands and a pure heart, a holy soul and a truthful tongue are given to her.
The closing note is inexpressibly grand. Jehovah of hosts, Lord of men and angels, Lord of the universe, Lord of the worlds, is the King of glory. All true glory is concentrated upon the true God, for all other glory is but a passing pageant, the painted pomp of an hour. The ascended Saviour is here declared to be the Head and Crown of the universe, the King of Glory. Our Immanuel is hymned in sublimest strains. Jesus of Nazareth is Jehovah Sabaoth.