“O Gates, you shall lift up your heads!
And be lifted up, you eternal doors!
That the King of Glory may come in!”
We are told of the excitement that David and the people felt when they brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem to be placed in the tabernacle area that David had prepared. The people came into the city with shouts and with singing and David, the king of all Israel, led the way with jubilant dancing and praise (2 Samuel 6). What an amazing time that must have been! You can almost hear David approaching Jerusalem with the Ark and shouting to the gates that they would open so that the procession might enter the city. This sense of joy and excitement has led some scholars to the position that this psalm was written either for or about the entrance of the Ark into Jerusalem.
We have mentioned before, though, that it is more likely that this psalm was written to be sung at the dedication of the temple. Who is this King of Glory? It was certainly never a title given to David, and in the context of this psalm, it clearly points to the coming Messiah who would go up into the temple for his people. With that being said, though, there is a very real chance that David, while writing this hymn to be sung at the dedication of the temple, was recalling the joy and excitement that he experienced when bringing the Ark into Jerusalem in the first place. Thus, the imagery that we have here is that of the messiah opening wide the gates of the temple and entering in on behalf of his people.
The language of throwing the gates wide open is important to understand, because it is symbolic of submission to the authority of the one entering in. When a king marched into the city with the gates thrown open wide, it was a sign that the city had been fully defeated by this king—in many cases, the gates would torn down if resistance persisted—again to reinforce the idea that nothing barred the way of this king from access to the city. This principle is important to understand as we look backwards in history, for example, to Samson’s tearing down the gates of Gaza (Judges 16:1-3) and carrying them off to Hebron, a distance of about 35 miles, deep into the heart of Israel. Samson was telling the people of Gaza—“you are mine…” by this action.
Here we have the same thought in mind—the King of Glory—the promised Messiah who is anticipated, is depicted as approaching the temple of God and the gates being thrown wide open. And indeed, in a greater and fulfilled sense, this is exactly what Christ did! Not only did the death of Christ cause the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy place rent in two, but in the resurrection of Christ, the gates of heaven were thrown wide open to him as he ascended to glory. And if the gates of heaven are thrown wide open to Christ, not only is that an indication of his sovereignty over all things, but that is a promise that the gates of heaven will not be closed to any who are in Christ by faith. Indeed, because heaven received Christ with accolades, heaven will receive we who are the elect because we are united with Christ. Indeed too, the temple on earth is meant to be a shadow of the reality that is in heaven—and indeed, as no door on earth is shut to Christ, no door in the heavenly realms is shut either.
Beloved, it is hard not to get excited when reading these words of David. They are filled with hope and excitement and we have seen their fulfillment in the person and work of our Lord. What confident praise ought to fill our souls! What joy we should have when we proclaim these words! Lift your heads, oh you eternal gates, for now as Christ reigns on his throne, the bride of the King of Glory is being brought in!
Come, thou Almighty King,
Help us thy name to sing,
Help us to praise.
Father, all glorious,
Over all victorious,
Come and reign over us,
Ancient of Days.