“Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates” is one of the last songs I learned in seminary. This song was composed by William Mathias. The version I linked to was performed by the St. Albans Abbey Girls Choir and released in 2016.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates
And be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors.
And the King of Glory shall come in,
Who is this King of glory? x3
The Lord, strong and mighty! x2
The Lord, mighty in battle!
The Lord of Hosts. x3
He is the King of Glory! (Glory x3)
This choral anthem is a rendition of Psalm 24.7-8, 10: “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle…Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory” (NRSV).
This psalm is divided into three parts. The first part discusses God’s vast dominion: “The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it” (24:1).
The second part describes righteousness. Who earns the right to encounter God’s holiness in God’s temple? “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully. They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation” (24:4-5).
The final part (verses 7-10) is the focus of the anthem. In my bible version (the New Revised Standard Version), sections and chapters are usually titled. The title of Psalm 24 is “Entrance into the Temple,” so I would guess that this psalm is a sort of anthropomorphism of the temple gates.
For some reason, I see a clearer path from the discussion of God’s dominion to that of God’s glory and then to our response. It’s like saying:
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The Lord God has dominion over the whole world. The Lord is the King of Glory, the God of angel armies. All who are righteous, all with pure hearts, shall be able to enter into God’s holy temple and stand before the presence of God’s holiness.
Even Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
Yet, the concept of lifting one’s head alludes to a joyful anticipation. “Lift up Your Heads!” Rejoice! Chin up! The Lord is coming! Although the psalmist describes God as having high standards, they are only proportional to God’s glory. Yet, we have nothing to fear. Sure, we will fear God and stand in awe of God’s glory, but we have no need to be afraid of Him. After all, as believers, the Holy Spirit is constantly renewing us and transforming us from the inside, so that we will have clean hands and pure hearts. And when God brings heaven to earth, we will be able to dwell in God’s presence forever.