Psalm 24: Lift Up Your Heads, O You Gates!

This is the second of my February Adopt-a-Psalm commissions, written to commemorate a pastor’s retirement. I had been given a number of possible Psalms and decided Psalm 24 could fit well into a pastor’s retirement celebrations without being so retirement-specific that it wouldn’t be able to be used in the future.

The person who commissioned this mentioned that her church has multiple services in different styles. I wanted to compose something that could be adapted to any of their services. The demo above is done on guitar simply because that’s what I play, but the chords move in a way that it could easily be led by piano or organ. (Actually, I hear an anthem with piano, organ, rhythm section, and brass—and maybe strings, too. But that’s a different commission…)

If you read the Psalm, you’ll see the repeated “Lift up your heads” in v7 and v9. That felt like it needed to be the refrain. That’s where I started. The verses are set off from the refrain with a more subdued melody in a distant key. I’m a big fan of shifting keys like this—it’s a way of providing something fresh in the verses and creating anticipation for the return of the refrain. It also creates the possibility of choir or cantor leading the verses the first time to keep things easy for the congregation.

The Psalm is full of seeming non-sequitors. It starts with the creation themes, then moves to the section on a pure heart. I decided this latter section could be broken into two song verses. The first is a fairly standard rendition of the text. But verse 3 of the song I adapted creatively to fit the pastor’s retirement context. The Psalm says:

5 They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
6 Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

I decided it would be appropriate to adapt this blessing to infer the blessing a pastor receives after a life of ministry. Further, as often as appropriate I try to find New Testament resonances in the Psalms. In this case, I interpreted the “opening gates” of the refrain as the door that Jesus opens in Matthew 7. A bit of a stretch? Maybe. But it seems appropriate to remember that God has always been opening doors to enter our lives.

3. Oh, who will God call to receive a blessing?
And who will go out with the gift of peace?
The doors open wide to the sound of knocking;
The seeker shall find, those who ask, receive.

Need greater detail? PDF, MP3

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, O you ancient doors!
That the King of Glory may come in.

Who is this King of Glory?
Who is this King of Glory?
It is the Lord—
Our mighty Lord.

1. The earth is the Lord’s and all within it,
for God spoke the word and it came to be.
Within oceans vast, God laid earth’s foundations;
Its pilings secured in the deepest seas. Lord. refrain

2. Oh, who shall ascend God’s holy mountain?
And who shall remain in that holy place?
Only those with clean hands, who have washed in water,
And those with pure hearts, who have bathed in grace. refrain

3. Oh, who will God call to receive a blessing?
And who will go out with the gift of peace?
The doors open wide to the sound of knocking;
The seeker shall find, those who ask, receive. refrain

This entry was posted in Adopt-a-Psalm, 2017, Church, Congregational Songs, FAWM 2017, Psalms. Bookmark the permalink.

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