The Gate of the Lord


“Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it.” – Psalm 118:19-20

“This is the gate of the Lord.”

What is this referring to?

I believe it is referring to righteousness. “Righteousness is the gate of the Lord.”

We tend to think that the word righteousness means correct moral action. But, the word means something more and different than that. The Hebrew word has more to do with faithfulness. Thus, the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament defines this Hebrew word as to be communally faithful. In his latest book, The Day the Revolution Began, N.T. Wright notes that the Greek word for righteousness means covenant faithfulness or covenant justice.

So, communal or covenant faithfulness is the gate of the Lord.

Further, “this is the gate of the Lord” is interesting because of the word “this.” I checked about 15 different translations. All of them translate the Hebrew word as “this.” But, the Hebrew word used here can also mean “such a one.” Therefore, perhaps “this is the gate of the Lord” has the idea that such a one who is righteous, covenantally faithful, is the gate of the Lord.

In John 10:9, Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” So, Jesus is this gate that we enter by. According to 1 Corinthians 1:30, Jesus “became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Jesus became covenant faithfulness to us.

In Romans 1:16-17, Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'” The gospel – Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected – reveals the covenant faithfulness of God.

God’s righteousness, his covenant faithfulness, was revealed to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden through his provision of every tree that was good for food and to the sight and, most importantly, through the tree of life, which is a picture of Jesus. This is important because as Paul continued in Romans 1 he described the unrighteousness, or lack of covenant faithfulness of men.

I believe Paul sums up man’s unrighteousness in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” God had provided everything good thing, including his own life, to man. But, man failed to be covenantally faithful through a simple lack of honoring and thanking God for his good provision. Adam and Eve, and each one of us, sought to live by the knowledge of good and evil in independence from God and their becoming like God instead of God’s provision and dependence upon him.

Thanksgiving is critical to Psalm 118. After asking for the gates of righteousness to be opened in verse 19, the psalmist says that he will go through them and give thanks to the Lord. In verse 21, the psalmist thanks the Lord for answering him and becoming his salvation, which as we saw above is made possible through Christ’s covenant faithfulness.

Also, Psalm 118 opens and closes with the exact same statement. “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” Here is the key for entering through the gate of righteousness, Jesus Christ who is the door by which one must enter to be saved. There must be a complete acknowledgment that God is good, as his provision in the garden of Eden revealed. And, there must be an acknowledgement that his steadfast love, his goodness, his covenant faithfulness, endures forever. Finally, we must give thanks to God for his goodness, his good provision, and his steadfast love that never ends. For it is thankfulness to God that keeps our minds on him instead of being darkened to serve idols.

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