12/14/2015 2:48:01 PM
Advent Reflections on the King of Glory - December 9, 2015
Text: Psalm 24
Dear Friends in Christ, There are some special names for Jesus that we customarily reserve mostly for this time of the year. They appear on our Christmas cards; they punctuate our worship; they are sprinkled throughout our seasonal songs and hymns. We talk about Jesus as the Babe of Bethlehem, or our newborn King, or Immanuel, or the Prince of Peace. All of these names and titles are wonderfully descriptive and beautiful and accurate.
Today we’re going to take a look at another one. Our midweek Advent messages this year are based on three Psalms from the Old Testament. Last week was Psalm 25. This week we’re going to back up one and consider Psalm 24. And in Psalm 24 we can rightfully refer to Jesus, who is true God, as “The King of Glory.”
That’s a magnificent name and there are some magnificent thoughts behind it, so today we’re going to try to unpack this Psalm as we spend our time in
ADVENT REFLECTIONS ON THE KING OF GLORY
The very first thing we should know about Psalm 24 is that there’s a story behind it. And it’s a pretty neat one.
Do you remember what the “Ark of the Covenant” was? If the only thing that rings a bell is the title of the 1981 Indiana Jones action movie, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” let’s spend a minute or two reviewing this piece of Bible history, because it has something to do with this Psalm.
According to the Book of Exodus, the Ark of the Covenant was built by God’s command and according to his specific design shortly after God’s Old Testament people exited Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Outwardly the Ark was an approximately 4 foot long, 2.5 foot wide and 2.5 foot high chest of wood covered inside and out with gold, with two rings on each side through which gold covered wooden poles could be slid through to carry it.
On top of the Ark was the “atonement cover,” sometimes referred to as the “mercy seat,” made of pure gold. And on top of that were two carved angels (called cherubim) made out of hammered gold, both facing each other with their wings spreading upward and inward, and forming a canopy over the mercy seat.
Inside the Ark were the Ten Commandments God gave Moses on the two tablets of stone. Later two other things were added. Moses’ brother Aaron’s staff, and a jar of that miraculous bread from heaven, better known as “manna,” that God provided his wandering people on a daily basis.
We could spend the rest of this sermon giving more details about the Ark of the Covenant, how it was used, and tracking its whereabouts throughout the years, because it’s all very fascinating. Even more importantly, we could spend worthy time developing its spiritual significance and symbolism. Think for example, of how the Law of God was covered by the mercy of God, or how once a year the high priest sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial animal on the mercy seat to atone for the sins of the people and how that foreshadowed Jesus sacrifice…
But we can’t. For our purposes it is enough to simply know that for early Old Testament believers the Ark of the Covenant was special and revered because it represented the very presence and glory and majesty and goodness of God.
That’s where Psalm 24 fits in. Many Bible scholars believe King David wrote this Psalm as he was bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. It had been temporarily housed in various places, but David wanted to give it a permanent home in what had become the spiritual capital of God’s People.
Consequently, he composed this Psalm in anticipation and celebration and preparation of what David very well may have considered to be his crowning achievement as the leader of God’s People: bringing this premier symbol of God’s presence and goodness and majesty safely home.
So using a literary device called “personification” and speaking as if the gates and doors of Jerusalem through which the Ark would pass were actual people, David finds it hard to contain his excitement and exclaims: “Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”
Then he asks, “Who is this King of Glory?” We know him to be Jesus. And what kind of King he is for us is found throughout the rest of this Psalm. Let’s work our way through it.
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
Obviously this is creation talk. David reminds us that Our King of Glory is God, and as God he is the One who made the heavens and the earth. In other words, he is the King Creator. That means this world is not a product of random chance or some sort of ancient explosion of gases, but just like the Ark of the Covenant, has been drawn up according to God’s design.
And you know what else has been drawn up by his divine design? All who live in it. That means each one of us. Each one of us can say, as King David said in Psalm 139, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Do we all have the same gifts and abilities? No, we don’t. But that’s by God’s design.
If we put it in artistic terms, we can say that each one of us is a singular creation with our own unique brushstrokes, all originating from the warm and loving palette of our Creator King.
That’s an important point to consider if ever we become dissatisfied or discontent with our lot in life. So rather than giving way to envy of what others are, or what others have, or wishing that our lives were something different than they are, it’s good for us to be reminded that our Creator King has us in this time and this place and given us a role to play: to honor and praise him according to the gifts and abilities he’s given us.
And that is something each of us will want to do, especially when we consider the next description we’re given of our King of Glory. Listen to these next words.
3 Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.
5 They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
David asks a couple of questions, both of which mean the same thing. Who can stand in the presence of God? Put another way, what are the qualifications of the person who can be in a right relationship with God? Then David answers his own questions. Only those who are clean and pure will receive blessing from the Lord.
Apply that personally. Where does that leave us? Not in a very good place. Because we know ourselves. And while we try very hard to be clean and pure, we know we fail. We want very much to project an image of respectability to the world around us, but in our heart of hearts we know the seething pettiness and the lust and anger and resentment and the selfishness that lies just beneath the surface and too often bubbles up.
So does the King of Glory. But that’s why he came. That’s why he visited our planet. To redeem us. To purify us. To cleanse us from our sin. To make it possible for us to stand in the presence of God. He came because salvation is not something we achieve, it is something we receive.
And we know how he gave it to us. By living a holy and perfect life in our place. We know that the wood of the manger would eventually give way to the wood of the cross, where Jesus would die as the substitute sacrifice for the sins of the world. And everything Jesus did is credited to the account of those who trust in him as their Savior. Which makes us redeemed, restored, forgiven, righteous and holy in God’s sight.
Who is he, this King of Glory? Not only is he the one who created us, but he is the one who redeems us and cleanses us from our sin so we may stand in the presence of God now on earth and forever in heaven.
He’s even more. Final verses of our Psalm:
7 Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory.
Now we’re into military language. The King of Glory is the strong and powerful LORD Almighty. Staying with the imagery, he is the One who wins victories for us, his people. We’ve already talked about his victory over the damning consequences of our sin by his life, death and resurrection. So we can say that he has conquered death for us.
But there are still other things he has conquered for us and freed us from. Here’s just one timely example of what the King of Glory provides us.
Freedom from worry and fear of the future. With all the things going on in the world, there is a lot of talk these days about feeling safe. Politicians are debating among themselves right now the best way to do it. Some say more restrictive laws. Some say finding better and quicker ways of determining who the bad guys are. Some say a stronger military presence in different parts of the world. As individual citizens, we may have our own opinions and enter on one side of the debate or another.
But as Christians, there is no debate. We know where our safe place is. The words and promises of God. Even when world or personal events seem to be unravelling right before our very eyes, there is Jesus, our King of Glory, with the promise that he’ll never leave us or forsake us; that we reside in the palm of God’s hands, and no one can snatch us from them.
So we go forward fully aware that we are not immune to the strains and stresses of a sinful world, but that we are always safe in the arms of our King of Glory; that even when we find ourselves getting caught in the crossfire of this sinful world we still live under the umbrella of God’s truth that “all things work together for the good of them that love God” and that “nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ.”
Who is the King of Glory? He is the one who conquers death and fear and keeps us safe in his words and promises.
And he is coming. So as the gates and ancient doors of Jerusalem were told to lift up their heads in anticipation and preparation and celebration for the coming of the King of Glory and all that he is – our Creator, our Redeemer, our Conquering king – so do we. Amen.