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Ancient gates

Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, invincible in battle. — Psalm 24:7-8

The arch over the gates of the infamous Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz to this day bears the slogan Arbeit machts frei—“Work makes one free.” Given that the intended fate of the unfortunate people who were herded into the camp was to be worked to death, the slogan is a sick joke about freedom through death, which exacerbates the horror of the scene.

It’s hard to imagine a more hopeless entrance anywhere in the world.

It’s reminiscent of the entrance to hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy. According to Dante, the gates of hell carry the sign, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” Both thoughts—of people being herded into Auschwitz to their death and of the unrepentant being swept into the hopelessness of hell—are chilling in the extreme.

These pictures of hopelessness stand in marked contrast to the tone of Psalm 24, which speaks about the gates to the “mountain of the Lord” (24:3), the doors to the presence of God. The psalm was probably written to celebrate the day when David brought the ark of the covenant onto Mount Moriah, the eventual site of the temple (see 2 Samuel 6:12-19).

Even as far back as the wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, the children of Israel marched behind the ark, which they believed guaranteed them victory over their enemies (see Numbers 10:33-36). Israel thought of the Lord as the “King of glory… the Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, invincible in battle” (Psalm 24:8).

The entering of the ark into the temple signified God’s entering. It was, therefore, a great cause for rejoicing. These gates were welcoming “the King of glory”!

Mount Moriah had been set apart for the worship of the Lord to whom the earth and everything in it rightfully belongs (Psalm 24:1). Recognizing God’s sovereign rule required that men should come before Him in worship.

The question then became, “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?” (24:3). Such a glorious, mighty creator and redeemer could not be approached casually or flippantly. The would-be worshipers were told, “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies” (24:4).

In other words, only those who know their impurities and deviousness and have sought and found forgiveness can enter through the gate and worship as they ought. Those who do so are promised that they will find “the Lord’s blessing and have right standing with God their savior” (24:5).

A vision of the majesty of the Lord and a humble approach to Him as “Savior” qualifies a man to enter and “worship the God of Israel” (24:5-6). Those who enter through this gate do not abandon hope—they discover glory!

For further study: Psalm 24

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.