Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O 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...who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! -Psalm 24:7-10
This text from the Psalms tells us of a time when the residents of Jerusalem were awaiting the arrival of the LORD (“LORD” in all caps is the spelling used in most English translations when the original Hebrew word is “YHWH,” the personal and unspoken name for the unique God of Israel). Yahweh was enthroned between the golden cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. The Jerusalemites longed for the ark of the Lord to enter into the sanctuary city and dwell among the people. The procession that brought the ark into the city, led by the Levites and priests along with the singers and trumpeters, asked the guards at the gate for entrance. Their response was repeated like a holy cadence. As the procession approached the age-old gates of the city, the Levites called out, “Open the ancient doors, the King is approaching!” The gatekeepers responded, “Who is this King that you speak of, and where is he?” The response echoed back, “He is your King, the King of glory, mighty in battle! Open the doors for your King!” The King cannot be seen, for he is in fact the LORD, unseen by human eyes, yet visible in the ark that he inhabits.
Although this psalm is written in an old covenant context, it has application for us today. God has revealed himself fully in his Son, Jesus (John 14:9; Heb. 1:3). Jesus is a king because his Father is a king, and he reigns with supreme authority because he is the creator of this kingdom, and his Father has given it over to him (Matt. 28:18; Col 1:15-22). Countless millions today ask the same question about God that is rhetorically asked in Psalm 24 — “Who is this King of glory?” The answer is Jesus, the eternal Word of the Father, whose kingship began not at Bethlehem but in eternity, since it has always been his. He reflects the Father’s glory, and he has been reflecting it even before the ancient doors of Jerusalem were set in place, because he has been reflecting it forever.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the “firstborn” over all creation. This term does not mean that he was the first “person” created by God, as some heretical off-shoots of Christianity and other non-Christian sects claim. The term “firstborn” simply means that Jesus is the creator of all creation; he is the preeminent one by virtue of who he is, not by virtue of when he himself was created. The Bible is clear that he has always existed as the second Person of the Trinity (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-19). One who is himself created cannot be the creator of all things, for such a concept is a logical fallacy. Jesus is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, a moniker that is given to both God the Father and to Jesus the Son in Scripture (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). So, when we ask, “Who is this King of glory?” the biblical answer is, “The God of heaven and earth who has revealed himself fully to us in his Son.” Without him, all creation falls out of existence.
In the parish church I attended as a youth, we used to sing a hymn based on Psalm 24 that I always enjoyed. The lyrics proclaim: The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices, open the gates before him, lift up your voices. Who is this King of glory, what shall we call him? He is Emmanuel, the promised of ages. In all of Galilee in city or village, he goes among his people curing their illness. He gave his life for us the pledge of salvation, he took upon himself the sin of the nations. He conquered sin and death, he truly has risen, and he will share with us his heavenly vision. It is a beautiful Jewish messianic folksong with powerfully accurate lyrics.
We live now in the year of God’s favor. Do not find yourself repeating the same question – Who is this King of glory? - over and over as the gatekeepers of Jerusalem did. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that this King – Jesus Christ – is Lord. We are wise to proclaim that truth now willingly, rather than in the future out of necessity.
There is no better time than the season of Advent to make clear your allegiance to Jesus Christ, the King of glory. “Lift up your heads, O gates, and be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!”
Grace and peace,