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God Is Gone Up

God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted. Psalm 47.5-9.

“God is gone up with a shout” is the well-known KJV translation of the opening words of this morning’s reading. But what is the psalmist talking about? What does he have in his mind’s eye as he writes them? Well, the answer to that lies, I think, in 2 Samuel 6. He is recalling the time when the Ark of the Covenant — the chest of acacia wood overlaid with gold in which were the stone tablets that Moses brought down from Sinai — was at last being returned to Jerusalem. Over twenty years earlier, the ark had been captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 5) and though they had returned it to Israel because of the misfortune it brought them, it had not been moved from Kiriath Jearim where they had left it. But now it was coming home and so great was the joy and excitement that “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (2 Samuel 6.14-15).

But if that is what the psalmist has in mind, why does he say that God has ascended amid shouts of joy? It was the ark that went up in 2 Samuel 6, not God. Ah yes, but where the ark was, God was. That’s the point. The ark was seen as “the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LORD Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark” (2 Samuel 6.2). The ark was God-With-Them.

Which leads me to one who was God-With-Us — “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us'” (Matthew 1.23). I see Jesus as the ark of the new covenant and I am reminded that there was a day when he ascended into heaven — was carried up to the heavenly Jerusalem from whence he had come to shouts of joy and the sound of trumpets that, though not heard by those who saw him go, surely resounded throughout highest heaven.

Paul describes his ascension in his letter to the Philippians. “Being found in appearance as a man, he [Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2.8-11).

God the Son “has ascended amid shouts of joy” and now God the Father has made him “King of all the earth”. With wonderful clarity, the psalmist saw that “the people of the God of Abraham” are not just the Jews. The people of the God of Abraham are “the nations” — “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7.9).

Sing praises to our king? Amen. Sing praises!

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