Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lift Up Your Heads (Psalm 24.7-10)


Sermon by: Robert Austell; November 22, 2015
Text: Psalm 24:7-10

:: Sermon Audio (link) ::
Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

:: Some Music Used ::
Song of Praise: Ancient of Days (Sadler/Harvill)
Song of Praise: Lift Up Your Heads (Tommy Walker)
Song of Confession: Give Us Clean Hands (Charlie Hall)
Offering of Music: Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates (choir; Handel, from the Messiah)
Hymn of Sending: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (LOBE DEN HERREN)
Postlude: Rick Bean, jazz piano

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf)::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided for that purpose.


Today we conclude our short series from Psalm 24. In only ten short verses this Psalm tells the sweeping story of the whole Bible. It begins with God’s creation of and rule over all things: “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains.” (v. 1) It moves on to the covenant relationship of a faithful God providing a means of righteousness and salvation for an impure and disobedient people. (vv. 3-6) And today we get to the conclusion, the welcome, recognition, and celebration of this creating, saving God as the King of Glory.

As a Psalm likely written and used originally when the Ark was brought to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 16:1-6), the Psalm continued and continues to depict this fuller story of creation, redemption, and celebration for God’s people. Verses 7-10 contain two rounds of this sequence: welcome, recognition, and celebration. I want to break down those three parts and I’ll mention the repetition of each one.

These verses (7-10) are poetically structured as an exchange between an authority and a host or guard at the door. The ‘gates’ and ‘doors’ are personified either to represent someone standing guard, who will only let in the rightful King. Or they are personified as all of Jerusalem – that God’s people are in view, being told to prepare for the arrival of their King. Both interpretations really serve the same purpose, to challenge us to prepare ourselves to welcome, recognize, and celebrate God as the King of Glory.

Welcome

So by welcome I mean more like what a parent might say to the children when guests are about to arrive. “Get ready, kids, Grandma and Grandpa are about to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner. Lift up your heads; look them in the eye! We want to welcome them when they get here!”

And so, to God’s people: “Lift up your heads and be lifted up… that the King of glory may come in!” (v. 7) And that is repeated again exactly in verse 9. And it’s not, “Leave the door open so the grandparents can get in”; it’s “we want to be there ready to throw open the door and greet them in the right way.” So it is with the King of Glory. If a king was coming to dinner, you’d really want to look alive at the door. You’d probably do more than usual to make ready the house. You’d pick things up; you’d vacuum. You’d put on your best clothes and prepare your best food. You’d extend your best WELCOME. And this isn’t just any king; it’s the King of Glory… the King of Kings… the biggest King of all.

That actually naturally feeds into the next part. “Mom, why do we make such a big deal with Grandma and Grandpa come to visit?”

Recognition

Or in the words of the Psalm, “Who is the King of glory?” (v. 8)  And the second time, “Who is this King of glory?” (v. 10) We can imagine it either as a clarifying question from the children – from God’s people. “Why is this such a big deal?” Or we can imagine it as a rhetorical question from the person speaking with authority. “Kids, tell me why we should greet your grandparents at the door?” In terms of usage in a Psalm that God’s people would have memorized and repeated from childhood on, I think this latter use is probably the better fit.

We’ll use it that way in the Assurance of God’s grace today. The lay assistant will read the verses and ask YOU the question, “Who is this King of glory?” That gives you the opportunity to speak the answer with your lips. I imagine that’s how the Psalm was used. The people would be told to get ready for the coming of the Lord, then asked, “Who is this King of glory?” And then they would shout the answer.

Either way, the second part of these verses is RECOGNITION. You can’t welcome a particular guest if you don’t recognize them. So to welcome God into our lives, we have to recognize God for who He is. That’s why scripture is so important; it tells us who God is and what God has done. That’s why Jesus is so important; he has shown us the very face of God.

Celebration

And the response to the question not only answers the question, but CELEBRATES the One we will welcome. Who is the King of glory? – “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” (v. 8) And on the repeat: “The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.” (v. 10) There’s no way to know that if you don’t know who God is or what God has done. For the people of Israel in the days of King David, God is being remembered here for being the mighty one who led them out of slavery, out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. The wandering people and the portable Ark of the Covenant have found a permanent home in the land God had promised Abraham, in the city of Jerusalem.

We could add to that description because we know even more of the story. God is not only strong deliverer, but faithful covenant-keeper and enduringly compassionate. Knowing Jesus as God in the flesh, we also recognize and celebrate Him as suffering Servant and compassionate Savior. To be sure, in his victory over death and sin, Jesus also shows God as strong and mighty!

What I want to highlight is not just the answer to the question, “Who is the King of glory?” I also want to highlight the joy and celebration of the answer. You get that a bit with the final “He is…” – the King of glory is the one who is strong and mighty who has done all these things… HE is the King of Glory!  In the repetition and the call and response and the final phrase, you can hear the energy building.

Sometimes as parents we do the same kind of thing. The kids have to put down whatever is engaging them at the moment and told to man their stations. But that’s not enough; we also sometimes need to take a moment to remember just who is coming to dinner, and not just remember, but celebrate who is coming. And usually, when we have taken time to do those things, it becomes the real celebration it should be.

Postscript

So… what if I told you that God is stopping by? We’ll just leave for a later discussion the biblical imagery of Jesus standing at the door and knocking or the Holy Spirit making a home with you. Let’s just deal with the simpler picture of God stopping by. This Psalm is the reminder to look up, to get ready. I understand the momentary frustration of life being interrupted. I’m in the middle of something important. Look up. Lift up your head. BE lifted up. Do you recognize who it is that wants your attention? Can you put words to that? Will you put words to that?

The King of Glory. God-who-loves-me. Faithful one.

Do you believe those words? Is that for real? What are you going to do with that?

It could be a celebration!

Amen.





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