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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « An Illustration - Two Federal Heads - Adam and Christ | Main | Interview: Dr. R. C. Sproul and The Holiness of God »

    Psalm Twenty-Four: Lift Up Your Heads, O You Gates!

    Images of the Savior from the Psalms
    Psalm Twenty-Four: Lift Up Your Heads, O You Gates!

    In this Psalm, we may see the boundless greatness of the infinite God brought down nearer and nearer to mankind, until the climax of all time and history explodes upon the scene in a brilliant crescendo of triumph, and the unthinkable becomes reality, as the uncontainable God of the universe steps through the gates of Zion to dwell among his people. This, then, is the drama of all redemptive history, played out before the eyes of our heart in three terse scenes, which wrap up infinite import in little swaddling bands of words, just as the infinite Christ child, the eternal Word of God, was later swaddled and laid in a manger – the boundless bound in mean strips of cloth, the uncontainable contained in a feeding trough. Mystery of mysteries! For what deeper mystery could there be than that which is contained in these words, “God with us”?

    The earth is the Lord's and all that fills it, begins the Psalmist – for all that is made, both seen and unseen, was created by him and for him (Col. 1:16). He is the self-existent, self-sufficient and eternal One, in whose hand all the universe is held up, and in whom all creatures live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28). And yet, of all the mighty galaxies and stars and worlds that he has created, his purpose for them all is not equal; for leaving behind the firmament and all the hosts of heaven, and only but touching upon the seas and the rivers, he fixes his attention upon that solid part of the earth, which he has established for man's habitation. But what could the God of the universe see in the boundaries determined for man, that he should give them a closer look?

    Thus ends the first scene. The scope of the vision narrows at a breathtaking rate: the vast deserts and breathtaking mountains where nomads and villagers dwell are swept by as caught up in the rapids of a plunging waterfall, the forests and plains and islands and steppes of a thousand different peoples fleet past at the speed of lightning, and we are brought to an abrupt halt at the foot of a hill. But what is this? Surely it could have no significance to the infinite God who measures the heavens with a span? But yes – it is God's hill! In all the universe, this is the holy place of Yahweh.

    And could this great God, then, stoop so low as to choose for himself one hill in all of creation? Could he condescend to confine himself so narrowly? And for what purpose? Surely, he could not humble himself so greatly for that creature called man! For is that not man the sinner, the only rebel and traitor among all God's good animals? Yes, even that man, the infinite Lord has chosen to dwell with.

    Who, then, can ascend to so wonderful a hill, the only place in all creation where God has chosen to dwell among us? Ah, yes, now we remember – did we not read it before, in Psalm Fifteen? It is only he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who takes no pleasure in falsehood and lies. It is only the Truth, the Pure and Holy One, who can come into that hill, to be with the Lord.

    But wait a moment longer! For after that Holy One among men, who is very Truth of very Truth, has entered into the hill of the Lord, we may see that he is not alone. No, there is a whole generation of them who are like him, a whole generation who seek the face of God. Look how they follow him, a mighty throng, who have received blessing and righteousness from the God of their salvation, so that they might dwell with him on his holy hill! What a righteousness that must be, that it would fit them to be with the God of Jacob! But who has won it for them? How did that gateway to glory ever open up?

    A flash of light, and behold – scene the third has begun! In it, the sweet psalmist of Israel sees a most blessed future: the Temple, which in fact has not yet been built, is nevertheless standing before him in all its glory. And who is this about to enter in? The Temple which was built for the infinite God of the Universe to dwell in – the God so great that the heaven of heavens cannot contain him (1 Kings 8:27) – fairly dances with awe-struck joy – and could it be? What is this glory that comes striding up? Is it not the full glory and radiance of God the Creator? Then the saying is true: “the Lord himself will come suddenly to his Temple,” (Mal. 3:1), and the goal of history will then be realized. “Lift up your heads, O you gates! Be lifted up, O ancient doors! So that the King, the King of glory, may enter in – and who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, mighty in battle – the Lord who has chosen this hill as the place where he might dwell among his people, and be their God – he is the King of glory.”

    And so the vision fades. Today, the Temple of Solomon has fallen, which then was not yet built. But it has served its purpose. For one day, walking among the money-changers and dove-sellers, a braided whip of cords in his hand and a righteous look of fury on his face, the Lord himself entered that holy hill (John 2:13-22). Not a stone of this temple will be left upon another stone, he told his disciples (Mat. 24:1-2); for now, he himself has become the Temple of God. In his human body, the God of the heavens has finally come to dwell among men. Now, by the power of his Spirit, he is building the true Temple all the world over (Eph. 2:19-22), and calling every kindred, tribe, and tongue unto his holy hill, until some day, when the whole generation of them that seek him have ascended to his holy place, he might come unto them once again, and dwell among them, and be their God, and they will be his people (Rev. 21:3). Then, there will be no more Temple, for the Lamb will be the Temple (Rev. 21:22).

    But first, he must build his Temple of every people on earth, and enter in to them, and be their God. Then let us up and be laboring! Is not that Temple even now before the eyes of our hearts? Look, there, where that faithful witness is testifying to a hard-hearted nation, laying the foundation that the apostles laid, of Jesus Christ and him crucified, look, even there stands the door of the Temple. “Lift up your heads, O you gates, that the King of Glory may enter here into his Holy Hill, and be the God of this tribe too, for many of whom he has poured out his blood (Rev. 5:9)! And who is this King of Glory? It is the Lord of Hosts, King Jesus our God, Immanuel.

    Posted by Nathan on October 18, 2010 11:34 AM

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