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 up going 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 the Psalms 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.
The Treasury of David.
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 cohorts 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 All glorious 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 charges his angels with folly. Lift up your heads, O ye gates.
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 Scriptures.”
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 Revelation 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 Luke 7:44, who gave him no kiss nor water to his feet; some into heart, but not into house, as the faithful centurion Matthew 8:8, esteeming himself unworthy that Christ should come under his roof; some neither into house nor heart, as the graceless Gergesites Matthew 8:34; some both into house and heart, as Lazarus, Mary, Martha. John 3:15 Luke 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 Colossians 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. 1 Corinthians 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?” Mark 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, chants a merry Magnificat, and a pleasant Te Deum: she saith unto Christ, as Ruth unto Naomi Ruth 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 my lord the king shall be, whether in death, or life, even there also will thy servant be.” 2 Samuel 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 mayest be found, and in the right quando—while thou mayest be found. Psalms 18:47, 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 thy holy place; 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 of 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 to 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 if 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 has 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.” Psalms 47:1, 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 has 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 taken 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.” Psalms 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.
Ver. 7-8. 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 shouldest 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 sparkle of glory on thy heart. O! 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.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. Isaac Ambrose.
Ver. 7-8. 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.
Ver. 7-10. 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 imperial 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, “ascendeth 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 vanquished Goliath, and carried his head into Jerusalem, the damsels came forth to meet him with dances and timbrels, how shall we think those angelic 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, I think 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 ecstasy 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.
Ver. 7-10. In the twenty-fourth Psalm, 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 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.
Ver. 7-10. 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 ecstasy. 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 him 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.
Ver. 7-10. 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 the 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 with 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 this 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. Edward Young.
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, wrapped in glory, with the Father reigns, Omnipotent, immortal, infinite!—James Scott.
Accommodate the text to the entrance of Jesus Christ into our hearts.
The ascension and its teachings.
The Treasury of David.
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