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The Scriptorium

Rather Be a Gatekeeper

Meet the sons of Korah. 1 Chronicles 26.1, 12-19

Psalms of the Sons of Korah: Introduction (1)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 84.8-12
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
O God, behold our shield,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
The LORD will give grace and glory;
No good thing will He withhold
From those who walk uprightly.
O LORD of hosts,
Blessed is the man who trusts in You!

Sing Psalm 84.8-12
(Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
Lord of hosts, my prayer receiving, hear me, help me by Your grace!
In Your courts I stand believing; Turn to me Your glorious face!
Lord, our sun, our shield, our glory, no good thing will You deny
To those who proclaim Your story, and who on Your grace rely.

Read 1 Chronicles 26.1, 12-19

1. What work did God appoint for the sons of Korah?

2. What does this seem to have involved?

To be a gatekeeper in ancient Israel was an honorable and important work.

We begin a series of studies on the psalms composed by the sons of Korah, who were gatekeepers in the temple of the Lord. Thus, we understand that they began their ministry when Solomon was king, during a time when Israel was in her glory as the envy of the nations for wisdom and wealth (cf. 1 Kgs. 10). Central to the greatness of the nation was the magnificent temple which Solomon constructed on the hill of Zion in the heart of Jerusalem. It was a wonder of the world, and it was the duty of all who served there, in whatever capacity, to keep it that way.

What do we know about these gatekeepers? They were chosen from two families of Levites, the sons of Merari and the sons of Korah (v. 19). Thus, their service would have been of a practical and managerial nature in the temple, since this was the kind of work appointed the Levites from the beginning. Such work would require a certain raft of skills that not everyone in Israel possessed. The gatekeepers had to be “able men” (1 Chron. 26.7) “with strength for the work” (1 Chron. 26.8). As guards of the entrances to the temple, they would have been fit, imposing, and well-equipped to protect against any interlopers who sought unlawful entrance. They doubtless possessed considerable organizational skills, because they set up teams of gatekeepers for different watches of the day and night (1 Chron. 26.12) and different gates into the temple (1 Chron. 26.13). They would have been very disciplined, able to keep a strict schedule and order for guarding, opening, and securing the gates. Think of the Beefeaters outside the queen’s palace in London, or the American service persons who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington. Promptness. Protocol. Checklists. Teamwork. Attention to detail. Pride. Respect.

No wonder the sons of Korah would rather have been gatekeepers in the house of the Lord than enjoy the footloose life of wickedness. For them a day serving the Lord within the courts of the temple was better than a thousand days doing anything else (Ps. 84.10). Wouldn’t we like to be able to say the same?

The sons of Korah must have been a close-knit, self-effacing, deeply spiritual, and uniquely gifted band of brothers. They cared not for individual fame or recognition, but only that together they might glorify God. The eleven (and probably twelve) psalms credited to them are some of the most personal, visionary, and glorious of all the psalms in the psalter, and in this study, we’re going to take a close look at each of them.

We begin in our next installment with a survey of the themes common to each of the psalms of the sons of Korah.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
As with many words, a variety of synonyms can be found. Gatekeeper is no exception. Porter, doorkeeper, doorman, temple guard, and doorman of the temple are all interchangeable. Each one signifies and elaborates on the work to which the sons of Korah were called.

A gatekeeper is a person who controls access to something and assesses who is “in or out”. A porter has an added dimension as a person stationed at a door or gate to admit or assist those entering. A doorman includes a uniform on the person or attendant at the entrance of a building. And a guard is a person assigned to protect or oversee another; or a sentinel on duty to protect or defend.

These sons of Korah were an amazing group of men who not only had the important job of gatekeeper of the temple of God, but were poets and songwriters, too. They also were unafraid to speak truth to power. Indeed, they were a “uniquely gifted band of brothers” who “cared not for individual fame or recognition, but only that together they might glorify God.”

They exemplified the “chief end of man” as stated in the Catechism, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”.

Let us agree together, with the gatekeeping sons of Korah, to follow Jesus’ command to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5.16).

Because really, there is nowhere we’d rather be and nothing we’d rather do!

1. What is your sense of what these gatekeepers were supposed to do? Is there any sense in which we who believe are gatekeepers of the Kingdom? Explain.

2. All work is honorable and important when it is done unto the Lord. What would you say are some of the keys to do all things unto the Lord, including our work (Col. 3.23, 24)?

3. Given their work as gatekeepers, what kinds of themes might you expect from the twelve psalms of the sons of Korah?

There were four divisions of the gatekeepers, but they came from only two of the Levitical clans, Kohath and Merari…Like their Levitical brethren in music (1 Chron. 25:7) and the priests (24:31), these officials served right along with the four thousand others who made up the whole contingent of gatekeepers (23:5). Earl Radmacher (1931-2014), NKJV Study Bible Notes on 1 Chronicles 26.1-19

Closing Prayer: Psalm 84.1-7
Commit yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice for this day. Call on Him to prepare you for the journey ahead, and to help you keep your eyes on Him and His glory as you go.

Psalm 84.1-7
(Holy Manna: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship)
Lord of hosts, how sweet Your dwelling; how my soul longs for Your courts!
Let my soul with joy keep telling of Your grace forever more.
Like a bird upon the alter, let my life to You belong.
Blessed are they who never falter as they praise Your grace with song!

Blessed are they whose strength is founded in Your strength, O Lord above.
All whose hearts in You are grounded journey in Your strength and love.
Though they weep with tears of sadness, grace shall all their way sustain.
In Your presence, filled with gladness, they shall conquer all their pain.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to our summary of last week’s study by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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