The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
The first half of this verse pertains to God loving the gates of Zion. Why does the Lord love the gates of Zion? What is it about the characteristics, purpose, intention of the gates that provokes such a love? I think of the concept of love as Calvin Miller spoke of marital love. He discusses how he had a flurry of questions the day of his wedding, chiefly, “Can I really only love this woman for the rest of my life?” The question ceased, or perhaps shifted, as he recognized God’s love. Marriage is not based on romantic love; marriage is based on commitment.Miller realized he couldn’t promise to love his wife with passionate romance for the rest of her life, but he could make a commitment to choose to love her the rest of her life. Commitment is quite different than romance. It is exponentially stronger than romance because it answers all the problems romance cannot answer. Commitment gives the action not just the emotion. What do I do in this instant or altercation? Commitment says to swing wide the gate. And commitment can make such declarations because it is no longer about the self. Commitment is about all involved and all who have witnessed the declaration of the decision. Romance only answers for the one who feels, all the actions appeal to the one who does the feeling. Commitment needs no reciprocity; it needs only determination to the objective declaration: I am committed even when I don’t feel like it. Commitment points to a foundational decree of the party. It is with committed love that Christ chose to love us while we were yet sinners. But Christ’s love is so powerful that it changes the hearts of sinners to warm with love.
Now what does this verse have to do with marriage, romance, commitment, etc.? Well, God loves the gates of Zion. Why does he love them? First, because he chooses to love them. Why would he choose to love the gates? Because the gates are the means through which his chosen people enter his presence! In the day and age where a city would have walls and turrets, the gate was the place of procession. A king would be trumpeted into or out of the city. Groups of musicians and family members would sit around the gate calling and cheering, announcing and celebrating, those who might enter into the royal place. Festivals begin and end at the city gate. The Lord loves the gate because it serves as the declaration and embodiment of his glory upon his people.
Why does God love the gates more than he loves the individual homes of his chosen people? David Clarkson answers this question as he explains the verse, “God is glorified by us when we acknowledge that he is glorious. And he is most glorified when this acknowledgment is most public.” I think to myself how pointless a birthday party would be if everyone decided to celebrate in their own room. Would the birthday person receive celebration through such an experience? What if a teacher simply sent each student out of the room and expected the students to come to some unifying understanding of chemistry? Such a means of coursework would be ludicrous, not to mention dangerous! The purpose of God’s love upon the gates of Zion evinces the manner by which God desires his worship. God wants people to come together. First, because it rightly distinguishes his importance and the truthfulness of his glory among all peoples. Second, because it unifies the way through which people worship. Third, the gate is the symbol of each person’s entrance into the kingdom of God. There is only way to enter Zion, the gate God loves: Jesus Christ.
God brings his people together under the banner of Christ. Through Christ the church is blessed by the Holy Spirit who enhances our understanding of worship and our comprehension of fellowship, one with another. The Spirit unifies God’s people and God’s power within God’s people. We received the grace of God by the Spirit testifying in each one of us that we are justified by Christ alone. It is as though each one of us is a single ripple within a tidal wave of God’s own glory. Again, David Clarkson expresses this idea beautifully:
The Lord engages himself to let forth a stream of his comfortable, quickening presence to every particular person that fears him, but when many of these persons join together to worship God, then these several streams are united and meet in one. So the presence of God, which enjoyed in private is but a stream, in public it becomes a river, a river that makes glad the city of God.
When God’s people come together the sound of music grows louder, the waves of praise extend farther, and the currents of grace move stronger. Why would single drops be preferred as a show of worship among the people? There is one entrance to the kingdom of God and that entrance is the grandest focus of God’s affection: the one who brings the bride into grace – Jesus, the Christ.
It is said that when a victorious king made his homecoming from battle, the people of his city would race out to meet him, jumping and singing and gathering others to join the parade. We have such a King. The Scripture says that when he comes to enter his established kingdom we will leap into the air with trumpets blaring to meet him as he establishes our home again on Earth. The Lord loves to hear the praise of the gate people. He loves to hear his glory acknowledged as we await him in public worship. It is treason to not acknowledge the rightful heir of a throne. As Christians, when we are caught up in lives too busy to acknowledge the Lord who comes to deliver His people, we ought not to be traitors, but worshippers. Do you desire to be a person at the gate? That is the question the Psalmist asks us. It’s not that the Lord does not love those dwelling in their homes who acknowledge him; it’s just that he has a conditional range of love by which his smile shines more brightly on those excited to meet him.
When we think of ourselves as the bride of Christ, we recognize that, as Ephesians reminds us, Jesus chose us, before the foundation of the world, with a commitment kind of love. We could not be stricken from his love due to our lack of romantic sensibilities. His commitment took him to the cross through which he became our substitutionary atonement, taking all sin and therefore taking on the full wrath of God. This is a love beyond romance, it is a truer love, a purer love, a sacrificial love. He did this that we might be at home with him. He did this that we might understand the meaning of love and see the glorious victory of such a love. As the bride we are to wait eagerly, anticipating the consummation of such love. On a wedding day, the bride is often the one walking down the aisle to meet the eyes of her beloved. In this verse we are the bride waiting for the glorious arrival of our groom. He has shown what commitment looks like. He has valiantly purchased us from death and united us as children of God. What do you do at the gate of Zion? You rejoice for the bridegroom is coming! You rejoice that victory is accomplished! You get out of the house and join in one song; in singing so, you are acknowledging as best you can the gloriousness of your God. Be a gate-person, after all, a Christian is one who knows the way to God.
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
All Scripture taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.