This may have been written by David when the ark was brought up to Zion. Every eye in the universe is looking on, and every ear listening in heaven, earth, and under the earth. The strain of this Psalm brings up our thoughts, Revelation 5:2,3, for it is as if a voice proclaimed:
"The earth is the Lord's" and then "It is He, and no one else who founded it above the surrounding seas."
The claim of the Lord's dominion is made in hearing of the universe; and the proclamation challenges a denial. This is done in v1,2, and no one in heaven, or earth, or hell, is found, who does not acquiesce in this declaration of Jehovah's sovereignty.
Amid the universal attention of all beings, a voice asks the question: who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? (v3).
The import of the question is this. There is in that world a tabernacle of Zion, typical of God's prepared mansion for his redeemed. Who shall enter and stand (that is keep his place) there, claiming as his proper home both that Tabernacle and the better things of which it is the type?
The voice states the character of the accepted one in v4 - he that has clean hands. That is, he who washes in the water of the laver after being at the altar. This, O men of Israel, has been shown. Is not that every day exhibited in the tabernacle? No priest enters the holy place until he has washed at the laver after being at the altar, (Exodus 30:19).
Or, to express it without a type -
"He that has a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to vanity,
Nor sworn deceitfully" (v4)
He must be pure, free from charge of sin against God and man.
This is the man who receives "the blessing" (Gen 27:36); this is the man who receives it, not as Jacob by stealth, but as the award of righteousness, being treated as righteous by the God of salvation. Messiah is this man.
But Israel knew the way to obtain this purity. He holy place presented to him in a type the provision that the God of salvation had revealed for a sinner. And so the voice pronounces, referring to a company who resemble The Man descried:
"This is the generation of them who seek him:
That seek your face, O Jacob." (v6)
The generation of those who seek Jehovah are such. And this further praise is given to them: the diligent seekers of your face are Jacob. i.e. persons who have a claim to the name of the peculiar people. We also understand it to mean - those whose hands are clean are true seekers of Jehovah: and they are taking the true way to get Jacob's birthright and Jacob's blessing - they seek your face O Jacob; they do not seek Esau, with the fatness of earth, but you Jacob who have got the blessing from the Lord.
Proverbs 7:15 and 29:26 have "seeking the face of" in the sense of seeking the favour or showing delight. Their delight is not in Esau, who got the fatness of the earth (Gen 27:39) as his portion.
If we understand it in reference to the possession of his birthright and blessing, that is, to the promise of Messiah and the pre-eminence involved in it, we see a reason to introduce the name Jacob. Properly and directly it is Christ only who can advance the claim to be regarded as pure and in all respect unspotted.
It is Christ who in his own person is accepted as such, and proclaimed as righteous.
All He does and receives is on behalf of his people; and so the words "this is the generation of those who seek Him" - here is a generation of such men.
There is a pause - intimated by Selah (v6) - not unlike in Proverbs 1:23-24, and the voice having previously declared who may hope to enter the Lord's presence, suddenly announces that their King is at hand! The accepted, pure and righteous One is the King!
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Be lifted up, you everlasting doors;
The King of glory shall come in. (v7)
Where does that name, KING OF GLORY come from? Is it not from the cloud of glory in the Holy of Holies? Is He not thus designated as being the Antitype of that symbol of the Divine presence? And the doors are called Everlasting because he who enters them is to keep for ever and in everlasting freshness this palace and sanctuary which He makes for himself in our Earth.
"The beams of his house are to be cedar, and the rafter fir," (Song 1:17) because the upholder of all is come. Earth is now to be his sanctuary and palace - Earth full of his glory - Earth with New Jerusalem come down from heaven.
It is the Lord himself, perhaps who asks at the wondering universe, just as the Elder asked wondering John (Rev 7:13), concerning his Well-beloved, now brought into the world in honour, glory and majesty not as his first coming, in humiliation: Who is this King of glory? (v8)
It is like Jeremiah 30:21, "who is this who has engaged his heart to approach me?" says the Lord. And the reply also is the Father's who tells of his Son who has gained victories and overcome in battles, and so won the Kingdom.
But when the proclamation is repeated and wondering onlookers half incredulous again ask the question: Who is this King? the Father's reply is: "The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory!" thus proclaiming the oneness of our King with Jehovah before all creation.
Selah ends the Psalm - a solemn pause before the people depart from the spot where they heard this lofty song.
It is a glorious hymn for the Church in all ages. Paul writing to Corinth (1 Cor 10:26) claims a believer's right to the things of earth on the ground that this Psalm claims for God a right to it: the earth is the Lord's and all the fulness of it. Evidently Paul associated himself and his fellow saints with The King of Glory, in whose train we are also expected to enter through the everlasting gates.
The Psalm describes our mode of joining the royal procession, and so passing on to glory with the King. There is no Psalm which with such sublime and simple grandeur describes: the path of the Righteous to the throne of glory.