“IVORY PALACES”

Wayne S. Walker

“All Thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes…out of the ivory
palaces…” (Psa. 45.8)

      INTRO.  A song which takes the figurative language of the verse
quoted above and applies it to Jesus is “Ivory Palaces” (#447 in “Hymns
for Worship Revised”).  The text was written and the tune (Montreat) was
composed both by Henry Barraclough (1891-1983).  A native of England who
studied music as a child, he later worked as an insurance claims adjuster
and then secretary to a Member of Parliament.  However, in 1914 he joined
the evangelistic team of Presbyterian evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman and
his song director, Charles M. Alexander, who were on a preaching mission
to England.  When the team returned to the United States, Barraclough
came with them.  In 1915 Chapman preached a sermon on Psa. 45.8, in an
evening service at a conference at Montreat, NC, in which he applied the
symbolism of the perfumed garments to Christ.  

     As he was riding to take some friends home that night, the 24-year
old Barraclough thought about the message & the phrases of the refrain
began to take shape in his mind.  While they were stopped at a little
village store, he penned his thoughts on the only paper that was
available to him at the time– the back of a visitor’s card which he had
in his pocket.  Upon returning to his hotel, he worked out the first
three stanzas, using the outline of Chapman’s message, and the music.
The next morning the the hymn was sung at the conference.  Later, Chapman
suggested that a fourth stanza be added about the second coming of
Christ.  The song first appeared in “Alexander’s Hymns, No. 3,” published
later that year.

     The song reminds us of the sacrifice that Christ made for us.

I. The first stanza tells us that Christ left the glorious garments of
heaven for us
 A. Jesus is pictured as having garments so wondrous fine, which can
symbolize the glory and majesty that He had with God in heaven: Jn. 1.1
 B. Myrrh is an exotic perfule that was often associated with joy and
ecstasy: Matt. 2.11
 C. Yet, this fragrance can reach to our hearts because Jesus left these
garments of joy and ecstasy in heaven that He might come to earth for us:
Phil. 2.5-7

II. The second stanza tells us that Christ experienced sorrow on the
cross for us
 A. Next, Jesus is pictured as having sorrows wore; indeed, He was
prophetically called the “Man of Sorrows”: Isa. 53.3
 B. Aloes is a bitter herb that was often used in embalming: Jn. 19.38-39
 C. Thus, the aloes represent the fact that Jesus suffered for us,
culminating in His death on the cross for our sins: Rom. 5.6-8

III. Another stanza not in “Hymns for Worship Revised” tells us that
Christ is our healer (I have difficulty in understanding why, when the
verse upon which the song is based has three perfumes mentioned, one
would want to omit one of the stanzas):
“His garments too were in cassia dipped, With healing in a touch;
Each time my feet in some sin have slipped, He took me from its clutch.”
 A. Cassia is a spicy ointment that was also used as a medication: Exo.
30.22-25, Ezek. 27.19
 B. This symbolizes the fact that Christ has healing in His touch: Mal.
4.2
 C. Thus, Christ has power to heal us from the wounds of sin when we turn
to Him: 1 Jn. 2.1-2

IV. The final stanza tells us that Christ will come again for us
 A. The glorious garments indicate that Jesus is now glorified with the
same glory that He had with the Father prior to His earthly incarnation:
Jn. 17.5
 B. It is in these garments that He will come to open wide the door: Acts
1.11
 C. And when He comes, we can enter the heavenly home to dwell with Him
forevermore: Jn. 14.1-3

CONCL.:  The chorus first cites Psa. 45.8 to picture Christ, who was
deity with the Father on His throne, coming out of the ivory palaces of
heaven to this low land of suffring and sin, and then addes that the only
motivation for His doing so was His great eternal love for us.
Therefore, we should be eternally thankful that Christ was willing to
come out of the “Ivory Palaces.”

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