Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. (Psalm 24:9)
The King of Glory
When I was a kid, one of the things I remember about being in church was that you had to behave in certain ways. You had to show “reverence” (whatever that meant!) No running or playing, no goofing off, no loud voices. As a pastor’s kid, I didn’t like the restrictions very much. (After all, I was in church all the time!) Still, it made perfect sense to me. It was an appropriate sign of respect, an acknowledgment that we were in a “sacred space.” Only certain kinds of behaviors and attitudes were allowed in “the house of the Lord!”
As I’ve grown older, church behaviors and even church spaces have changed remarkably. It’s not uncommon nowadays, for instance, to host a banquet or movie night in the church “sanctuary.” I’ve even seen beach balls or Twinkies tossed around in a Sunday morning service! And I have to confess, I welcome the change. I remember hearing a catchy phrase years ago, “We should be less concerned about ‘the house of the Lord,’ and more concerned about ‘the Lord of the house!” That seems to make sense to me as well! So, which attitude toward our church building is the “right” attitude?
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the writer of Psalm 24 really wrestled with that question very much! “Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.” (Psalm 24:3-4)
According to the psalmist, it doesn’t sound like anyone “qualifies” to stand in God’s holy place! I know I don’t. Can I honestly say that my hands are clean and my heart is pure every time I show up on a Sunday morning? Am I disqualified somehow if I have trust issues or struggle with a question of faith? What am I to do?
But listen to what happens next in this song. The voice from inside the sanctuary suddenly shouts out, “Swing wide the gates, so the King of Glory can come in!” The only way the “house of the Lord” becomes sacred is by the presence of the “Lord of the house.” The Temple is not glorious apart from the King of Glory. We don’t qualify to stand in His holy place, but we can open the doors and let him into ours! That’s what will fill the space with glory. It’s true of my church, but even more amazingly it’s true of my life!
So, we have to ask, “Who is he, this King of glory?”
In his letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul answers this question in an extraordinary way. Jesus the Son, he writes, is “the image of the invisible God.” The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”
Jesus is the King of glory! And when the King of glory humbled himself and came to earth as a helpless baby in a manger something truly remarkable happened. God’s glory was here! And God’s glory, His salvation and righteousness and fullness, now stand outside the gates of our churches and our homes and our hearts, waiting for that cry from inside: “Swing wide the gates, so the King of glory can come in!”
He is the King of glory, the Lord of all creation. He wants to be the Lord of our churches and Lord of our lives. He comes, offering his presence and his glory, but he isn’t going to kick the door down. “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. (Revelation 3:20)
Call out to him and welcome him in. He will fill your life with his glory. And remember, always stay thirsty for him!