The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it;
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.
He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah.
Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty– he is the King of glory. Selah.
Spurgeon calls this psalm “The Song of Ascension.” It follows shortly after the “Song of the Crucifixion” (Psalm 22). It starts with feet firmly planted on the earth, ascends upwards onto the hill of the Lord, and ends at the gates of the heavenly Kingdom of God. In keeping with the Messianic theme of so many of the Psalms in this, we have a perfect song of the ascension of Christ!
The opening verses pan the world, full of life, full of people, created by Him and for Him (Col 1:16). Then the cry goes out – “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?” I think it is fitting to take this verse in two distinct but complementary ways. The first is simply asking the question, who is able to stand before God? And of course the answer is those who walk in holiness, in purity of heart, and in cleanness of deed. And thus we are admonished to live in such a way that befits a child of the generation who seeks the face of the God of Jacob!
But as the question is asked, the ramification of this question begins to fill our minds at a deeper level. We see that the question is just like the question asked in Revelation 5:2: “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” Much like the experience of John on the island of Patmos, we look across the earth’s fullness and find, none is worthy! Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? “There is none righteous; no not one.” (Rom 3:10) John wept when none could be found, but he was admonished by the angel: “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev 5:4)
So too here in this Psalm, who is worthy to ascend the hill of the Lord? Who is the One who has clean hands and a pure heart, the One who has never lifted up his soul to an idol or sworn by what is false? The Lion of the Tribe of Judah! The Root of David! Jesus, our Savior, now ascending the hill of the Lord to that Holy Place. And as he, the captain and author of our salvation (Heb 2:10), ascends the mount, he leads behind in his train (Eph 4:8), a procession of those who have had their soiled robes now white, washed in the blood of the lamb. Those whose hands were unclean, whose hearts were impure, who were guilty of lifting their souls to those things that were false and unclean. But these have been washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (I Cor 6:11).
And as we ascend the hill of the Lord, with our Jesus at the head of the procession, we come to the ancient gates of heaven itself. I imagine gates large beyond comprehension. Let your imagination take the largest gates you can imagine (your “Lord of the Rings”, Asgard-inspired, CGI-inflated, then multiply it a hundredfold….you get the point…gates towering to the heavens). As the procession approaches, the gates themselves rock on their hinges. With a mighty earthquake, the rocks and mountains begin to tremble.
And the crier before the gates sings out with a loud voice “Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!”
And at the top of the gates, seeing the mighty throng approaching, the watchman of the gate cries out with a resounding voice: “Who is this king of Glory?” Not because he does not know, but because he wants to hear it proclaimed by the vast throng:
“The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.”
Once again the crier: “Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!”
And in perfect, synchronized reply, the watchman: “Who is he, this King of glory?”
And the vast multitude bows down and replies in worship, “The LORD Almighty– he is the King of glory!”
Bow down and worship your Lord, your Savior, who takes you into his train unworthy though you are, now covered and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. Worship Jesus, the King of Glory!